Ed Markey was born in Malden, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1946. As a teenager in the early 1960s, he was inspired by Dr. Benjamin Spock who, on the premise that nuclear testing was likely to have negative physical and psychological effects on children, aimed to unite health care professionals with the nuclear abolition movement.
Markey graduated with a BA from Boston College in 1968 and a JD from Boston College Law School in 1972.
After serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, Markey became a Democratic member of the Massachusetts State House for two terms (1972-76). He was then was elected to Congress in 1976 and served there for 37 years before winning a U.S. Senate seat in a special election in 2013.
Key issues for Markey have been climate change, clean energy, and nuclear non-proliferation. While in the U.S. House of Representatives, Markey served as the Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and as Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming under the direction of then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski once said that “there is no greater environmental champion in Congress than Ed Markey as we fight to head off the looming catastrophe of climate change” — i.e., the notion that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are destroying the natural environment. Also during his years in the House, Markey founded the Nonproliferation Caucus “to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons” and was the leader of the national Nuclear Freeze movement. Moreover, he was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and served on the House Homeland Security Committee from 2003-09.
In early 1982 Markey was the original congressional sponsor of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Resolution, which was based on a widely disseminated 1980 document titled “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” authored by defense policy expert Randall Forsberg. Markey would later praise Forsberg as his “friend” and as “an eloquent and inspired advocate for nuclear disarmament.”
On June 12, 1982 Markey spoke before approximately a million people in New York’s Central Park, at the largest peace and disarmament rally in American history.
Markey made a run for the U.S. Senate in 1984, but his already-foundering campaign was derailed completely when, in a sit-down interview with a local television reporter, he was unable to answer a question asking whom the U.S. was supporting in either El Salvador or Nicaragua. He also misidentified the prime minister of Israel.
In 1986 Markey was one of several members of Congress who pushed for an amendment to end funding for nuclear weapons testing unless the president could certify that the Soviet Union was conducting tests of its own. “What we’re trying to do is break the [Reagan] administration’s testing habit — cold turkey,” Markey said at a news conference.
In the 1980s as well, Markey was one of the key legislators who institutionalized a Marxist, anti-Republican focus within the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — a focus that explains, as conservative author Spyridon Mitsotakis puts it, “why PBS and NPR regularly praise Fidel Castro but won’t air conservative documentaries.” In a 1991 piece titled “The Politics of Public Television,” author David Horowitz wrote in Commentary magazine:
“At least four of the programs on Central America which PBS chose to air during this crucial decade [the 1980s] before Communism’s collapse were the work of a single director and radical ideologue, Deborah Shaffer, whose ‘solidarity’ with the Communist dictators of Nicaragua, and their guerrilla allies in El Salvador and Guatemala, was a proudly displayed item in her curriculum vitae. Her most celebrated documentary, Fire From the Mountain (1988), an aggressive promotion of Sandinista myths, was based on the autobiography of the Sandinista secret-police chief, Omar Cabezas, while her other films — El Salvador: Another Vietnam? (1981), Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements (1986), and Nicaragua: Report From the Front (1984) — all reflected her commitment to the politics of the Central American guerrillas.
“In 1988, the Congressional Oversight Committees for Public Television, led by their Democratic chairmen, Representative Edward Markey and Senator Daniel Inouye, institutionalized this revolutionary front inside PBS by authorizing the transfer of $24 million of CPB monies to set up the Independent Television Service (ITVS) as a separate fund for ‘independent’ film-makers. Representing the independents in testimony before the committees were Deborah Shaffer’s producer, Pam Yates of Skylight Productions, and Larry Daressa, co-chairman of the National Coalition of Independent Public Broadcasting Producers. Daressa, who later turned up on the ITVS board, was also the president of California Newsreel, flagship of the radical film collectives and producer of such ’60s classics as Black Panther and The People’s War, a triumphalist view of the Communist conquest of Vietnam.”
Markey’s opposition to freedom of speech is so extreme that he quite literally has been willing to excuse Stalinist censorship. Consider, for example, this August 19, 1983 report from the Boston Globe, detailing Markey’s trip to see Daniel Ortega, dictator of the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua:
“Markey said that when he asked Ortega about censorship of the media and restriction of religious freedom in Nicaragua, ‘He [Ortega] said he would lift the restrictions if he believed there was any kind of normal situation in his country. But because the U.S. was massing for war on his northern border and because the U.S. had someone such as Henry Kissinger, who was a central figure in the assassination of (former Chilean President Salvador) Allende, how could he be expected to exist as though a normal situation was at hand?'”
Markey’s response was not to condemn the Communist dictator for his weak attempt at trying to justify repression, but to placate him. As Markey told the media: “I assured him the vast majority of people in this country [the U.S.] never want to see another Marine set foot in Nicaragua.”
In a June 11, 2002 news conference, Markey urged President George W. Bush to: (a) renounce proposals stipulating that the U.S. should reserve the right for the use of first-strike nuclear weapons, and (b) pledge a permanent end to U.S. testing of nuclear warheads. Markey also introduced a joint resolution calling for an end to the development, testing, and production of nuclear weapons and the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
On September 17, 2009, the House of Representatives voted by a 345 to 75 margin to defund the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN. All 75 votes in support of ACORN were cast by Democrats, one of whom was Markey.
When a deranged Tucson, Arizona gunman named Jared Loughner shot and severely injured U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and killed six other people on January 8, 2011, Markey blamed the “incendiary rhetoric” of conservative talk radio for triggering “unstable individuals to take violent action.” But Loughner’s motives were wholly unknown to anyone, and there was no evidence that he had ever even listened to talk radio.
In February 2012, Markey in the House of Representatives introduced the Smarter Approaches to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act of 2012, which attracted 34 co-sponsors. His bill called for: (a) a dramatic reduction in the number of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons; (b) the termination of the B-61 and W-78 Life Extension Programs; (c) the termination of the Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; (d) the shuttering of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement – Nuclear Facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico; and (e) the closing of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River, South Carolina. Said Markey: “America’s nuclear weapons budget is locked in a Cold War time machine [and] doesn’t reflect our 21st century security needs. It makes no sense. It’s insane.” “The SANE Act cuts $100 billion in spending on outdated, wasteful nuclear weapons and related programs over the next ten years,” he boasted, adding: “Let’s cut new nuclear weapons and not programs for the poor, the elderly, the sick and the children of our country.”
On May 3, 2013, Markey was a signatory to a press release from the Cuba Team of the Latin American Working Group, an Institute for Policy Studies affiliate that urged President Obama to support all categories of travel from the U.S. to Cuba.
Also in 2013, the Boston Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Markey in his Senate primary against Stephen Lynch.
On February 27, 2014, Markey and fellow Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley introduced S. 2070, the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act of 2014, which sought to scale back, delay, or cancel a number of nuclear weapons programs and facilities.
During the 2014 election cycle, Markey received political donations from the Iranian American Political Action Committee.
In 2015 Markey co-sponsored the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.
In May 2015 Markey was one of 14 U.S. senators who wrote a letter urging President Obama to allow 65,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. Senators Dick Durbin and Amy Klobuchar led this initiative. The other participants were Al Franken, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Patty Murray, Robert Menendez, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Coons, Tim Kaine, Sherrod Brown, and Mazie Hirono.
In August 2015, Markey announced his support for the Iran Nuclear Deal.
In 2017 Markey was a co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders‘ bill for universal, government-run health care. Other supporters included Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Patrick Leahy, Sheldon Whitehouse, Al Franken, Jeff Merkley, Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Brian Schatz, Mazie Hirono, Richard Blumenthal, Jeanne Shaheen, and Tammy Baldwin.
On February 2, 2017, Markey spoke at a large protest in Boston’s Copley Square against President Trump’s temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries that were hotbeds of terrorism and civil war. Elizabeth Warren also spoke against the ban.
On September 4, 2017, Markey expressed his support for the Boston-based Chinese Progressive Association.
Markey once chaired the Senate Climate Change Task Force which meets to discuss new federal regulations to reduce carbon pollution and to curb climate change, what Markey calls “one of the gravest threats to our planet’s health … [and] national security.” Markey endorses the multi-billion-dollar Clean Power Plan (CPP) which has been criticized as follows by the free-market think tank The Heartland Institute: “CPP, if implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), would have only averted .019 degrees C of potential future warming by 2100. This amount is too low to be accurately measured with even the most sophisticated scientific equipment. As such, [President Donald] Trump was correct to issue an executive order rescinding these rules.”
Sen. Markey supports “common-sense gun control reforms,” which include universal background checks, an “assault weapons” ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines, “and closure of the loopholes surrounding the creation of undetectable, plastic guns.” As a congressman in 1994, Markey was instrumental in persuading then-President Bill Clinton to enact an emergency moratorium on “military style assault weapons,” like AK-47s and Uzis, imported from China. In 2014, Markey and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) introduced the Handgun Trigger Safety Act which pushed for “smart” technology on handguns and claimed that it “would decrease accidental gun deaths significantly.” Markey explained further: “In the most recent James Bond film, Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes him as its owner, becomes inoperable when it gets into the wrong hands. This technology, however, isn’t just for the movies – it’s a reality.” In 2016, Sen. Markey wrote a letter to Facebook and Instagram urging the social media companies “to keep online and offline communities safe” by banning the sale of firearms by users on those platforms’ marketplaces.
On the issue of human rights, Sen. Markey says that one of his “top priorities” is to stand up for “all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” He has co-sponsored several pieces of legislation for the LGBTQ community, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The Heritage Foundation says that ENDA “threatens fundamental civil liberties” by “creat[ing] special privileges that are enforceable against private actors” and does little to protect “religious freedom or freedom of speech.” In 2017, Markey took part in the first-ever Senate resolution which recognized June as LGBTQ Pride Month.
Following the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, Markey was highly critical of the Republican administration. In one example, after President-elect Trump appointed former executive chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon as his chief strategist in 2016, Markey released a blistering statement condemning the move: “If the saying is true and you are the company you keep, Donald Trump has chosen to champion the positions of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and anti-Semites by appointing Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor. There is no place in our society, let alone the White House, for purveyors like Steve Bannon of hate and violence against any group of Americans. President-elect Trump will forever poison the well with Congress and the American people by appointing a figure who has fueled the rhetoric and activities of hate groups that actively promote violence against immigrants, Muslims, women, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, and people of Jewish faith.”
Markey also criticized President Trump’s immigration policies, especially those affecting the so-called Dreamers, the approximately 800,000 illegal-alien teens and young adults who first came to the United States as minors. After Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a 2012 executive action through which then-President Obama provided many illegal aliens with temporary work authorization as well as protection from deportation, Markey took to Twitter to claim that Trump was playing political games with Dreamers not only through ending DACA but also by blocking the DREAM Act, which would provide illegal aliens a conditional pathway to citizenship. “The only dream Trump seems to care about is his empty one of a border wall,” Markey wrote, referencing Trump’s campaign promise to construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In February 2017, Markey and fellow Democratic Senator Kamala Harris introduced legislation, the Access to Counsel Act, to ensure that anyone detained at any U.S. port of entry would have access to legal counsel. This bill was introduced after President Trump announced his January 2017 executive order which imposed a temporary moratorium on visas for people seeking to travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations that were hotbeds of Islamic terrorism — which Democrats mischaracterized as a “Muslim ban.” The Access to Counsel Act was formally endorsed by the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In June 2018, Trump engaged in a historic summit with North Korea and its infamous Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, and managed to secure a denuclearization agreement from the North Korean dictator. Though Sen. Markey had long encouraged such diplomacy with North Korea, he said from the Senate floor: “Despite his claims to the contrary, President Trump got a weaker deal with fewer commitments than any of his predecessors.”
On Thanksgiving Day in 2020, Markey tweeted the following about the Thanksgiving holiday:
“While we celebrate all that we are grateful for today, we must also remember the true history of Thanksgiving and recognize the atrocities committed against Native Americans, as well as the widespread disease brought by European arrival which decimated the Native population. In Massachusetts, on this 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival, we continue to stand with the Wampanoag people who first met the Pilgrims and celebrate their continued sovereignty and land rights.”
“I was very proud of the way in which the House of Representatives conducted the debate and ultimately cast the correct historical vote to impeach Donald Trump. I think that it’s the only answer that can be given. History must have recorded that there was a second indelible impeachment scarlet letter that was attached to Donald Trump and to his presidency. I think that the excellent work which they did today sets up a trial of Donald Trump for his incitement of an insurrection…. It could have resulted in a massacre…. So we don’t have a choice. We have to have a trial.”
In February 2021, Markey joined fellow Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono — along with Representatives Grace Meng, Jesus Garcia, and Pramila Jayapal — in introducing the New Deal for New Americans Act, legislation that called for: (a) increasing refugee admissions to the U.S. at least 125,000 per fiscal year; (b) supporting organizations that assist immigrants in need of know-your-rights education, relief from a deportation order, or help in applying for citizenship or other legal status; (c) promoting automatic voter registration for newly naturalized individuals; (d) bolstering family reunification policies by reducing (from 21 to 18) the age at which citizens can petition for eligible family members to receive immigrant visas; and (e) prohibiting the deportation of anyone on grounds that he is deemed a public charge.
On April 15, 2021, Markey unveiled the Judiciary Act Of 2021, which called for the expansion of the U.S. Supreme Court to 13 Justices instead of 9. Accusing Republicans of having broken the Court with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, Markey said: “As a result, we have a stilted, illegitimate 6-3 conservative majority on the court that has caused this crisis of confidence in our country.” “The Republicans stole two seats on the Supreme Court,” Markey added, “and now it is up to us to repair that damage. Our democracy is in jeopardy today because the Supreme Court’s standing is solely damaged. And the way we repair it is straightforward. These four new seats, to be filled by president Biden, will reconstitute the United States Supreme Court. The bench will then rightfully reflect the values of the majority of the American people on whose behalf they serve…. Expanding the Supreme Court rights the wrongs the Republicans have done to this great Court. Expanding the Supreme Court is equal justice and will ensure equal justice is dispensed to all Americans.”
On April 20, 2021, Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led numerous fellow Democrats in re-introducing the Green New Deal in the Senate and House, respectively.
In early May 2021, Markey and Ocasio-Cortez called for the establishment of a 1.5 million-person Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), whose members would receive on-the-job training and would work with community groups on federally funded projects designed to “reduce carbon emissions, enable a transition to renewable energy, build healthier and more resilient communities, implement conservation projects with proven climate benefits, and help communities recover from climate disasters.”
On August 2, 2021, Markey joined Senator Bernie Sanders as well as Democrat Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush led a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol, where they exhorted President Joe Biden to extend the moratorium on evictions of residential renters which had been in place since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In the course of his remarks, Markey spoke about Woody Guthrie, the writer of the iconic song This Land Is Your Land, lauding him as a “communist” and a “socialist” before proceeding to lead the group in singing that song. When he introduced the song, Markey said: “And you know, there’s this great socialist, who wrote a great song, which a lot of people think is an anthem for our country, but it was written by a socialist, okay? Back in the 1930s [actually 1940]. A communist. He was a communist. He was a socialist. He was a radical. And you know what that song is? ‘This Land Is Your Land.’ Can we sing that? Who can start that?”
On September 1, 2021, the state of Texas passed a law (SB-8) banning most abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat could be detected via ultrasound – i.e., approximately six weeks gestation. When the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently decided against blocking this Texas statute, an outraged Markey, at a September 8, 2021 press conference, called for expanding the Supreme Court from 9 members to 13. Among his remarks were the following:
“The Supreme Court has left us no choice, we’re going to have to fight for our rights like we always. That starts with passing my Judiciary Act of 2021, which would expand the Supreme Court by four seats, from 9 to 13, to ensure everyone’s rights are protected. We must also pass the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021, which would safeguard against bans like this and other unnecessary barriers to reproductive health services. Too many Americans view our highest court in the land as a partisan political institution, not our impartial judicial branch of government.
“Too many Americans have lost faith in the Court as a neutral partner […] The consequences and the rights of all Americans – but especially, those of people of color, women and our immigrant communities — are at risk. We know that abortion restrictions overwhelmingly affect communities of color. […] They are in the crosshairs of this movement that is coming out of Texas, which right-wing advocates in America intend to stretch across the entire United States […]
“We know that due to unequal economy, many people of color work in occupations that don’t offer paid family medical leave. That if a person of color, has to travel to get an abortion, their paycheck and their job could be at risk. And we know that this Supreme Court, which Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump packed in 2016 and 2020, is not on the side of those who want to have access to abortion services. Trump and McConnell violated historic norms, governing Supreme Court [inaudible]. They created a precedent that the Senate would not confirm the justice to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year, refusing to give now Attorney General Merrick Garland a hearing and a vote. They held the seat open for months and months, and then Donald Trump to appoint Neil Gorsuch.
“They claimed that the proximity to a president[ial] election meant the seat had to be open until the people, through their votes for president could decide who should fill it. Yet 4 years later, just days before the 2020 presidential election, even while Americans are casting their ballots, Leader McConnell and his Republican colleagues confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat upheld by the late, great Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. So much for letting the people decide who would sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. […]
“Republicans stole 2 seats on the Supreme Court of the United States, and we must ensure that we correct that historic injustice. The theft of those 2 seats was the original sin, and the Court’s ruling on Texas SB-8 is the outcome [that] McConnell, Trump and their mega-donors wanted. […]
“We must ensure the Court fulfills its duty to deliver equal justice and the law. […] We can undo the damage [inaudible] by restoring balance with my Judiciary Act of 2021. We would add 4 seats to the Supreme Court to create a 13-member Supreme Court. President Biden would be able to fill those 4 seats, which would rightly reflect the value of the majority of the American people on whose behalf they serve. […]
“We must expand the Supreme Court and abolish the filibuster in order to do [so]. We are at a turning point in our country’s history.”
On May 2, 2022, Politico reported that an unidentified individual had leaked an initial draft majority opinion, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, in which the Court had decided to strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending,” said Politico. Whereas Roe had guaranteed federal constitutional protections for abortion rights, the new ruling would return responsibility for those rights to each individual state. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote in his opinion, adding: “We hold that Roe and Casey [a 1992 decision that largely reaffirmed the rights set forth in Roe] must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” In response to the Court’s decision, an outraged Markey called for President Biden to expand the Supreme Court by nominating several additional members. “A stolen, illegitimate, and far-right Supreme Court majority appears set to destroy the right to abortion,” Markey tweeted on May 2, “an essential right which protects the health, safety, and freedom of millions of Americans. There is no other recourse. We must expand the court.”