Barney Frank wants to be a senator. Is that a good thing or bad? (+video)
In media interviews Friday, just-retired Rep. Barney Frank said he'd like the Massachusetts governor to appoint him as an interim senator. In his 16 terms in the House, he had both highs and lows.
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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Let’s back up and fill in the background here, shall we? Representative Frank (D) of Massachusetts just retired after 16 terms in the House. For 32 years, he’s been pretty much the sharpest-tongued person on Capitol Hill, as well as cantankerous, intelligent, irritating, effective, and outrageous, often all at the same time. He once summed himself up this way: “I’m a left-handed gay Jew. I’ve never felt automatically a member of any majority."
He’s had low moments. In 1990, the House voted to reprimand him for fixing parking tickets for a live-in aide who was also a male prostitute. Republicans consider him the definition of a tax-and-spend liberal.
He’s also had highs. As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he helped write the 2010 Dodd-Frank act of financial-institution reforms. The left wing of the Democratic Party considers him a hero.
In the past, he insisted he was leaving Congress for good. He demurred even after President Obama tapped Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts as the nominee for secretary of State, opening up an interim Senate seat. Frank said he was just too bone tired for the job.
That’s now a nonoperative position. In a number of media interviews Friday, Frank said he’d like Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to appoint him to Senator Kerry’s seat as interim senator until the Bay State could hold a special election later this year.
The reason for this change of heart? The first months of the Senate session will be chock-full o' nuts with interesting issues, what with the debt-limit fight, the sequester fight, and so on, all occurring at once. Frank said it might be “immodest,” but he believes his experience would help the Democratic Party at a crucial time. (He said he wouldn’t run for a full term. But who knows?)