US Sen. Ed Markey hopeful gun safety, infrastructure bills can move through new Congress

Despite falling short on a series of legislative priorities in the Republican-controlled 115th Congress, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, said he remains optimistic that infrastructure investments, clean energy incentives and even some gun safety measures could gain bipartisan support in the new Congress.

Markey told The Republican Thursday that while many of the issues he plans to prioritize in 2019 — including, net neutrality protections, gun violence research and nuclear launch protocol changes, among others — will be similar to bills he pushed for last year, he expects them to see more movement now with Democrats controlling the U.S. House.

“There’s going to be tremendous momentum coming out of the House on privacy legislation, on net neutrality legislation, on clean energy legislation, on environmental legislation, on opioid legislation. … Now, again, how much obstructionism will be engaged in by Republicans in the Senate? That remains to be seen. But,I think we’re to create these issues as huge political challenges for the Republicans,” he said in an interview.

Markey acknowledged that while “it will be a real battle in the Senate” to move on Democrats’ priorities, the American public’s support for some of those issues, coupled with the fact that many Republican senators face re-election in 2020 could pressure GOP leaders to advance progressive policies than they have in recent years.

The Massachusetts Democrat, for example, said he believes “this is going to be the year” where lawmakers can successfully allocate money to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget to research the causes of gun violence.

“Carolyn Maloney, who’s a congresswoman from New York, and I have introduced this legislation for years, but I now think we’re in a position where we can actually put the funding into the appropriations bills so the CDC can do the work,” he said. “I’m going to be working hard to do that.”

Markey also expressed optimism about passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is environmentally friendly and includes investments in rail to connect Western and Eastern Massachusetts.

The senator, who argued that such funding is something both parties “have to come together on,” said he would ideally like to see $10-20 billion from any such infrastructure bill allocated to Massachusetts to support East-West rail.

He argued that while infrastructure “should be at the top of the list” for both Republicans and Democrats in the new Congress, “a lot remains to be seen” of whether common ground can be reached on this front.

“My fear is that President (Donald) Trump wants to use an infrastructure bill as an opportunity to privatize. My fear is that President Trump wants to shift the cost to the cities and the states, other than having the federal government pick up 70 or 80 percent of the cost, which has been the traditional formula,” he said, adding that the president could also use it as a way to “eviscerate” environmental and labor laws.

“Historically that hasn’t been the case, we’ve been able to finish comprehensive infrastructure legislation and do so in a bipartisan fashion. … But, it still remains to be seen whether this administration can, in fact, escape its own ideological straightjacket and come to the negotiating table freely to find the compromises which are necessary,” the senator continued.

Beyond looking at infrastructure and gun violence research, Markey said he plans to pursue measures that: create tax incentives for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources; add warning labels to opioid medication bottles; and provide long-term housing solutions for Puerto Rico hurricane evacuees and other disaster victims.

The Democrat added that he will also again offer legislation in the new Congress to reverse the Trump Administration’s ruling on net neutrality and to limit the president’s power to launch a nuclear first strike.