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Reaction To Rep. Frank’s Retirement

BOSTON — Longtime Rep. Barney Frank announced on Monday he won’t seek re-election in 2012. Here’s some political reaction (Frank’s statement is at the bottom):

— Rep. Ed Markey:

Congressman Barney Frank is an historic figure. He is a legislative giant whose accomplishments in Congress touch every important issue in our nation. Barney’s tireless, strong defense of the poor, the vulnerable, and the forgotten in our society is legendary. Barney is an extremely powerful voice for the voiceless, and he always reaches out to those in need. He combines the incredible commitment to progressive causes with a mastery of the legislative process. With a rapier wit and unparalleled command of legislation, Barney Frank is a phenomenal member of Congress. Barney has been my friend for 40 years – I will miss him greatly and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

— Rep. Bill Keating:

I worked with Barney both on the legislative side and on the executive side as District Attorney. Too many times, an announcement like today’s is viewed as an ending. Personally, I don’t view it that way. I will continue to value Barney’s friendship and counsel, and wish him the best in all he chooses to do in the future.

— Rep. Niki Tsongas:

My family and I have been privileged to know Barney Frank for more than three decades and I have been proud to serve with him in the House of Representatives over these last four years. I was so grateful to earn his endorsement during my first campaign in 2007 and even more grateful for his friendship and council as a colleague in the House. Massachusetts will lose a tireless worker and dedicated public servant and the country will lose an outstanding legislator when he retires at the end of next year.

The Wall Street Reform bill that he authored in the wake of the financial crisis will be one of his enduring contributions to this institution. Through this landmark legislation, Barney worked to ensure that critical new consumer financial protections were put in place, and that appropriate controls were placed on the reckless and predatory behavior that fueled the Great Recession so that it cannot be repeated.

Barney has also has been a champion for fairness, equality and civil rights throughout his time in Congress. Year after year he has led the fight to end the practice of discrimination based on sexual orientation as the sponsor of the Employment Non Discrimination Act, legislation that my husband Paul first introduced.

Beyond his many legislative accomplishments though, members on both sides of the aisle will miss his wit, sense of humor, and the personality that he brings to the House and to his work every day.

— Sen. Scott Brown:

Congressman Frank and I may have been on opposite sides of the political aisle, but we also found issues of common purpose where we worked together, such as standing up for our state’s veterans and fishermen. I have always admired his tenacity and advocacy, and respect his service on behalf of Massachusetts.

— Sen. John Kerry:

No one’s ever doubted for a minute what Barney Frank thinks or where he stands, and if you weren’t sure, trust me, he’d tell you. That’s the special quality that has made Barney not just beloved and quotable, but unbelievably effective as an advocate and a legislator. He’s brave, he’s bold, and he’s ridiculously smart. People have marveled for years about what a quick and witty debater Barney can be, but many overlooked his secret: he has a core. He’s the same advocate I met in the 1970s stumping for Father Drinan, only he’s taken that fight and that same sense of fundamental fairness to battles over equality, affordable housing, and fishing in New Bedford. Barney is who he is, no matter the issue. His voice will be deeply missed in the Congress and in our delegation, but true to his word he’ll be taking his perspective to a new arena where his impact will continue to be felt just as deeply.

— President Obama:

This country has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him. For over 30 years, Barney has been a fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable. He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them. And it is only thanks to his leadership that we were able to pass 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 from ever happening again. Barney’s passion and his quick wit will be missed in the halls of Congress, and Michelle and I join the people of the Bay State in thanking him for his years of service.

— Gov. Deval Patrick:

A generation of Bay State residents have known Barney Frank for his wisdom, wit and passion for service. Barney’s leadership, on issues ranging from civil liberties to financial system restraint, will be sorely missed. He has earned the good wishes of the people of the Commonwealth.

— Massachusetts Speaker Robert DeLeo:

I’d like to thank Barney Frank for his three decades of serving the Commonwealth in Congress. He has been a special member of Congress who has been both a zealous defender of his district and a passionate advocate of the ideals that make up the Democratic Party and the United States of America. He is a credit to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he also served.

— The Massachusetts GOP:

It is clear that Congressman Frank was not looking forward to another hard fought campaign after losing his gerrymandered district and spending nearly every penny he had in 2010. Republicans were already gearing up for a strong race and Frank’s sudden retirement injects added optimism and excitement into the election.

— Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair John Walsh:

In a state that has sent many great leaders to Washington, Barney Frank will take his place in history as a shining son of Massachusetts.

Barney has been a tireless advocate for justice and equality who has stood up for Massachusetts’ fisherman, fought for economic development on the South Coast and provided the driving force behind landmark Wall Street reform legislation.

In 2010, Republicans made an all-out push to stem the tide of Democratic progress in Massachusetts and thanks to our better ideas, better candidates and a massive grassroots campaign that stretched from one corner of the Commonwealth to the other, that push fell short. Next year, we will mount an even bigger grassroots effort to build on the gains we made in 2010 and continue to move Massachusetts forward.

— And here’s Frank’s full retirement statement:

I will not be a candidate for reelection to the House of Representatives in 2012.

I began to think about retirement last year, as we were completing passage of the financial reform bill. I have enjoyed—indeed been enormously honored—by the chance to represent others in Congress and the State Legislature, but there are other things I hope to do before my career ends. Specifically, I have for several years been thinking about writing, and while there are people who are able to combine serious writing with full-time jobs, my susceptibility to distraction when faced with a blank screen makes that impossible.

In 2010, after the bill was signed into law, I had tentatively decided to make this my last term. The end of next year will mark 40 years during which time I have held elected office and a period of 45 years since I first went to work in government full time as an aide to Mayor Kevin White in late 1967.

But with the election of a conservative majority in the House, I decided that my commitment to the public policies for which I have fought for 45 years required me to run for one more term. I was—and am—concerned about right-wing assaults on the financial reform bill, especially since we are now in a very critical period when the bill is in the process of implementation. In addition, recognizing that there is a need for us to do long-term deficit reduction, I was—and am—determined to do everything possible to make sure that substantial reduction in our excessive overseas military commitments forms a significant part of the savings over the next 10 years.

But, my concern for these two issues today cuts very much in the opposite direction—namely, in favor of forgoing a year-long full-time election campaign and instead focusing the next year on those two issues in Congress.

Two factors lead me to this view. The newly configured district contains approximately 325,000 new constituents, many of them in a region of the state that is wholly new to me as a Member of Congress. A significant number of others are in the area along our east-west border with Rhode Island which I have not represented for 20 years. This means that running for reelection will require—appropriately in our democracy—a significant commitment of my time and energy, introducing myself to hundreds of thousands of new constituents, learning about the regional and local issues of concern to them and, not least importantly, raising an additional 1.5 to 2 million dollars.

This would compete with two other obligations which I neither want to nor can avoid. First, I will continue to represent hundreds of thousands of people in the current 4th District to whom I am committed as the person they voted for a year ago. I have acquired a strong attachment to many of the people and causes I have worked with here. The Congressional redistricting removes from the district I represent virtually the entire fishing industry of Southeastern Massachusetts. It very substantially reduces the number of Azorean-Americans I will represent, and again removes almost completely people of Cape Verdean ancestry. Introducing myself and learning about the new area while continuing to give the existing area the full representation it deserves would make demands of my time that would detract from my focus on the national issues.

There is another, equally important consequence of the fact that so many of the people in this district would be new constituents that help persuade me to announce my retirement. The obligation of a Member of Congress to work as an advocate for the people he represents on local and regional issues that require or involve Federal government response are of paramount importance. And I am proud of the work I have done in that regard for the people I have been privileged to represent over these years. But as in almost every case, where there were significant local or regional issues involving environmental matters, transportation matters, housing matters etc., it took more than two years to resolve them. The relevance is that running again for one more term, I would be asking 325,000 new constituents to give me the mandate to be their advocate with the federal government for only two years. Starting on a series of projects only to be passing them along in various stages of incompletion to a successor two years later is not a responsible way to act.

There is one other factor that influenced my decision as I went through this year. Our politics has evolved in a way that makes it harder to get anything done at the federal level. I believe that I have been effective as a Member of Congress working inside the process to influence public policy in the ways that I think are important. But I now believe that there is more to be done trying to change things from outside than by working within. I am announcing today my retirement from elected office after 40 years but not my retirement from public policy advocacy and given the nature of our current situation, in some ways I believe I may have more impact speaking, writing and in other ways advocating for the changes that I think are necessary than trying to bring them about inside our constricting political process.

In summary, I am required to choose. I have to choose between fulfilling my obligation as a ranking member of the Financial Services Committee on behalf of financial reform and my responsibility to continue to be a full representative of the people who voted for me in 2010, and on the other hand to engage in a full-fledged Congressional campaign in a district which is very different than the current one. I am also required to choose between concentrating my efforts on trying to change the political equation in the country over the next year and doing the best I can within the conflicts and restrictions of the current set of forces. Given this, I am going to do what Massachusetts politicians often do, quote a former President from Massachusetts, although not the one usually cited. I do not choose to run for reelection in 2012.

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