Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the wittiest, most articulate and outspoken intellects on Capitol Hill, announced today he is retiring at the end of his current term.
He was responsible for a broad range of legislation over his 16 terms but none so controversial or as significant as last year's Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, while he was chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
President Obama said Frank's leadership produced "the most sweeping financial reform in history designed to protect consumers and prevent the kind of excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis."
The bankers and their friends disagreed and want to repeal the measure. Former Speaker and presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich said Frank and Dodd should be tossed in jail instead of the bankers responsible for the meltdown. Like those bankers, Gingrich is an outspoken opponent of government regulation. Frank shrugged off the attack, attributing it to Gingrich's "well-developed propensity to utter outlandish things."
Congressional Quarterly called Frank "one of the most verbally agile, tart-tongued, parliamentarily adept and legislatively wide-ranging congressional liberals of the past half-century"
The National Jewish Democratic Council's President David A. Harris said, "For the last 30 years, Frank has been a leading voice for many Jewish communal concerns and a stalwart advocate for America's middle class on Capitol Hill. Through his fierce advocacy for many Democratic and social justice causes, Frank truly represented the Jewish value of tikkun olam — repairing the world."
Frank was the first openly gay incumbent Member of Congress, something the homophobes at the Washington Times missed no opportunity to remind their paper's conservative readership about even – or, it seemed, especially – when that fact was irrelevant to the story.
President Obama lauded Frank's advocacy of the rights of LGBT Americans and the fight to end discrimination against them. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hailed that leadership but said, "his legacy is much more than that." Rea Carey, executive director of the group said, "He has brought his own brand of brashness, boldness, unmatched wit, discipline and skill to Capitol Hill, at times ingratiating and infuriating friend and foe alike."
Frank, 71, said a major factor in his decision to retire was the state's new redistricting map that moved 325,000 new constituents into his district.
He intends to do some writing, lecturing and advocacy for public policy issues important to him, but definitely no lobbying. One of the best parts about retiring, he said, is "I don't have to pretend to be nice to people I don't like."