Jewish congressman to retire after 30 years

Democrat Barney Frank, who represents southern Boston suburbs, has been at forefront of efforts to release Pollard.

November 29, 2011 03:31
3 minute read.
US Congressman Barney Frank

US Congressman Barney Frank 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

WASHINGTON – US Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) announced Monday he would not seek re-election in the coming congressional elections, putting an end to the 30-year-long career in the House of Representatives that made Frank one of Washington’s most prominent Jewish politicians.

Frank said redistricting following the most recent census was behind his decision to leave Congress a term earlier than he had previously intended.

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'US Congressman asks to speak to House about Pollard'

Frank, who represents the southern Boston suburbs and the industrial heartland of southeastern Massachusetts, became America’s first openly gay member of Congress when he came out of the closet in 1987. In recent years, he has been at the forefront of congressional efforts to release Jonathan Pollard, including spearheading a 2010 letter to President Barack Obama requesting clemency for Pollard.

Frank has been a vocal supporter of Israel, but remained characteristically outspoken on issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He challenged – and refuted – newspaper accounts that he had condemned Israel’s behavior during the 2010 Gaza Flotilla, but stood by a comment in which he said the behavior of some settlers toward Palestinians “makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority.”

Repeatedly recognized in polls by Capitol Hill staffers as among the wittiest and hardest-working members of Congress, Frank coauthored the Dodd-Frank Act, the law imposing tougher regulations on America’s financial sector following the financial crisis of 2008.

As the most sweeping financial regulative effort passed under the Obama administration, Dodd- Frank – which has been blasted by Republican presidential hopefuls – sought to “improve accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end “too big to fail,” to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts and to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices.

Obama said on Monday “this country has never had a congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him,” adding that 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.”

Frank, who is currently the ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee, is known for his sharp responses and liberal voting record on issues ranging from abortion to military spending. In the past, he also teamed up with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to advance legislation, including supporting online gambling.

In response to Frank’s retirement announcement, National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said he was “truly saddened by the news that Representative Barney Frank will be retiring at the end of his current term.”

“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.”

Harris said Frank “leaves behind a strong legacy as one of America’s pioneering Jewish legislators in addition to the many pieces of legislation that bear his name. Frank’s absence in the House will be felt by all, and especially so for many in the American-Jewish community, who have looked up to Frank as a role model.”

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