Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Broader Bully Pulpit: As Congress Grapples with Solutions for a Faltering Economy, Barney Frank Sits at the Center of Power

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

A Broader Bully Pulpit: As Congress Grapples with Solutions for a Faltering Economy, Barney Frank Sits at the Center of Power

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

BY ANY MEASURE the housing relief bill that passed Congress and was signed by President Bush in late July was a remarkable achievement. The bill, which includes a program to help hundreds of thousands of families facing foreclosure, is an unprecedented intervention meant to stop the free fall of the nation's housing market. That it was able to attract bipartisan support and avoid being vetoed by the president is testament to the skills of Barney Frank, the openly gay Democrat who serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services.

"He is one of the giants of the Congress, a real legislator," says Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "People think of him as this ideological liberal, but the fact is that Barney Frank understands what it takes to legislate. He understands what it takes to lead."

Currently in his 14th term in Congress, Frank is at the center of Capitol Hill's response to the faltering economy. The House committee that he chairs oversees all aspects of the financial services industry--including banking, insurance, public housing, and real estate as well as the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury, and the Securities and Exchange Commission--making the committee one of the most powerful in Congress. And Frank's accomplishments as chairman may establish a broader, more profound legacy for the politician synonymous with gay advocacy.

"His committee is influential, and any person who is chair of it would have wide-ranging authority," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. What has distinguished Frank is his ability to cross political lines in order to get things done, often working with Republicans and winning praise from representatives who disagree with him, sometimes strenuously, on gay issues. "Congressman Frank frequently goes out of his way to reach across the aisle and work with all members," says Texas Republican representative Ron Paul, the former 2008 presidential candidate who with Frank co-sponsored legislation on online gambling.

At first glance, sexual orientation would seem beside the point in the debate about the housing and financial services markets--except that Frank makes a point of reminding everyone he works with that he is gay. …

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