U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, BC ’68, BC Law ’72, stopped by Boston College Law School Tuesday to discuss immigration reform, gun legislation, and climate change. The Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy hosted Senator Markey in a talk entitled, “A View from Capitol Hill.”
Markey talked about some of the parallels he sees between the Trump administration and the Reagan administration, especially in regulations, which President Ronald Reagan famously reduced and which President Donald Trump has also begun to reduce.
“Up until the 1980s, regulation was not a dirty word,” he said. “It was broadly understood that we needed these regulations that kept our air and water clean, our financial markets sound and stable, and our consumers protected from dangerous products and predatory practices.”
“In short, regulation was recognized as a vehicle in which government could ensure a certain level of safety, security and stability in the economy and in the marketplace,” he added.
Markey noted the “Fox in the Henhouse mentality” of appointing officials who want to abolish the agencies they lead, a strategy Trump has borrowed from Reagan.
“Instead of looking at the regulations and trying to prune those that might be accurately characterized as over-regulation, the Reagan administration came in and said all regulation was bad,” Markey said. “He pursued a deregulation for de-regulation’s sake.”
Markey sees this in Scott Pruitt’s leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA 19 times, and many of the lawsuits, which are still winding their way through the courts, have the potential to impact the acceptable level of pollutants in the atmosphere, including mercury and soot.
The current tone, Markey noted, makes compromise difficult on climate change. He told the story of Bob Inglis, a former representative from South Carolina. Inglis was a loyal conservative, but on climate change he announced the scientific evidence would drive him. In 2010, he lost to a primary challenger from the right, Trey Gowdy, who later became chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi in his first term.
“What kind of message does that send to the more senior Republicans?” he asked. “He gave up his career for climate change. That’s not a good place for America to be.”
In the question and answer session, Markey was asked about the recent events surrounding the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
“I think the president got disciplined by his base. Initially, you can see that the president was responding from a common-sense perspective,” he said. “But he got punished brutally by these right-wingers, and now he’s basically saying you have to build a wall, so we’re going into non-starter territory.”
“So I don’t know where this winds up now, to be honest with you, with these DACA kids. There’s a minimal sense of freedom I can see among Republicans, but so far they are the people who aren’t running for reelection.”
“I see my job as working to protect the public interest,” Markey said. “That’s my job as a Boston College Law School-trained United States Senator. To represent what it was that we learned here at this great institution.”
After serving four years as a State Representative, Markey was elected in 1976 at age 29 to the House to represent Massachusett’s 5th district, a post he held until 2013. When John Kerry became Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, Markey won the special election to fill the seat, and then went on to win a full term in 2014.
Markey touched on his humble origins as the son of a milkman growing up in Malden, Mass., sharing fond memories of his mother, who wasn’t afraid to be strict.
“Whenever she was really upset with me, she would say, Eddie, we’re going to donate your brain to Harvard Medical School as a completely unused human organ,” he said.
Along with this prodding, he credits reading To Kill a Mockingbird and a fascination with Clarence Darrow and Abraham Lincoln in prompting to him to pronounce to his high school guidance counselor, “I want to be a lawyer, and I want to go to Boston College Law School.”
Upon learning he first had to go to college before law school, Markey asked, “What would be the best college to go to get to Boston College Law School?”
“Probably Boston College,” was the response.
“And so I had a plan,” Markey said.
“The likelihood of the son of the milkman from Malden being a United States Senator from Massachusetts was not even imaginable,” he said. “The first lawyer I ever met was the first professor who walked through the door at Boston College Law School.”
Featured Image by Danielle Rivard