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Frank seeks appointment as interim U.S. senator

Rep. Barney Frank is actively seeking an interim appointment as a U.S. senator (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former Rep. Barney Frank expressed interest in an interim appointment as a U.S. senator. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who retired after his last term as a U.S. House member on Wednesday, publicly expressed interest in the position of interim U.S. senator on Friday during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said he’s spoken to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick about the role.

“I’ve told the governor that I would now like frankly to do that because I would like to be a part of that,” Frank said. “It’s only a three-month period; I wouldn’t want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again.”

Frank noted during the interview that two weeks ago he said he wasn’t interested in the position because it was “kind of like you’re about to graduate, and they said ‘You have to go to summer school,’” but has since changed his mind.

The opportunity for the interim appointment has come up in the wake of President Obama’s announcement that he’ll nominate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as secretary of state. Under Massachusetts law, Patrick will have to select an interim replacement for Kerry, and between 145 and 160 days after Kerry steps down a special election must be held to find a permanent replacement.

Last week, Frank told Politico that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of accepting the appointment, saying his answer to whether he wants the job was “not a ‘no’ or a ‘yes.’”

In a later interview with the Boston Globe, Frank expanded on his reasons for seeking the position, saying he wants to take part in the talks to stave off major budget cuts to federal programs now that the sequester under the “fiscal cliff” deal has been pushed off two months.

“The first months of the new Senate will be among the most important in American history,” Frank was quoted as saying. “I may be a little immodest, but I called the governor and said I think I can be a help in reaching a fair solution to some of these issues.”

Frank reportedly continued, “I think there are progressive ways to work on Social Security and Medicare. I think making the case against [Tea Party Republicans] on the debt limit is important. A split emerged in the Republican Party over the fiscal cliff, with mainstream Republicans splitting with the radical right. I think it’s important for us to continue to exploit that. We need to reach out to conservative Republicans who nonetheless are willing to compromise, and find a way to reach a deal.”

The Washington Blade reported earlier this week that the cuts under the sequester could impact federal programs relevant to LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS, potentially placing as many as 12,000 people on the waiting list for assistance under AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.

Patrick hasn’t yet indicated whom he’ll designate for the position. Other names that have emerged in media reports are Vicky Kennedy, the wife of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, and former Democratic presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. A Patrick aide said the governor hasn’t made a decision yet.

Denis Dison, a spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said Frank’s experience as a U.S. House member would make him well-qualified for the position of U.S. senator as Congress approaches budget cuts.

“As a former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, few people understand better the complexities facing federal lawmakers in the coming months,” Dison said. “Beyond the history-making nature of such an appointment, it would serve the people of Massachusetts well to have someone with his experience and knowledge working on these very tough issues as they choose their next senator.”

If Frank is appointed the role, he would join Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in the U.S. Senate and would become the second openly gay lawmaker to serve in that chamber.

Frank’s new interest in the role marks a change from the viewpoint he expressed to the the Blade on Monday during an interview in previously unpublished comments.

Asked about his previous comments in Politico, Frank replied, “The only way to deal with that is to ignore it. Ignore the question. Talk about being in awkward situation. I am ignoring that.”

Pressed on whether he had any conversations with Patrick by that time, Frank offered more details and said he was ready to leave Congress.

“I have not had any conversations with the governor,” Frank said. “There’s a couple who’ve said, ‘Gee, you should be a senator. Want me to tell the governor?’ I said, ‘Please do not do that.’ I don’t want anyone doing that. I’m ready to get out of here, and my mind is set for that.”

Frank’s interest in becoming a U.S. senator is noteworthy because he’s come out in opposition to the potential nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary based on the former senator’s 1998 anti-gay remarks against James Hormel and his anti-gay voting record. If appointed as a senator, Frank would be in a position to vote against confirming Hagel.

04
Jan
2013

Frank passed over as interim U.S. senator

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was passed over for the role of interim U.S. senator (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was passed over for the role of interim U.S. senator (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The governor of Massachusetts on Wednesday announced his choice for the interim replacement for outgoing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — and it’s not the gay former U.S. House member who was publicly lobbying for the position.

Gov. Deval Patrick selected William “Mo” Cowan, his former chief of staff, to fill the open seat vacated by Kerry, whom the Senate confirmed this week as the next secretary of state by a vote of 94-3. Patrick also announced the special election to fill the slot permanently will be held on June 25.

“Mo’s service on the front lines in our efforts to manage through the worst economy in 80 years and build a better, stronger Commonwealth for the next generation has earned him the respect and admiration of people throughout government,” Patrick said in a statement.

After his retirement from Congress following 32 years as a U.S. House member, Frank was public about his interest in the position as interim U.S. senator, telling the Boston Globe he believes his experience on financial issues would be beneficial as the House takes on budget issues.

Had he been appointed, Frank would have been the second openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who was sworn in earlier this month.

30
Jan
2013

Frank ‘troubled’ by process of naming interim senator

Rep. Barney Frank said he wished being LGBT would weigh more as a diversity factor (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank said he wished being LGBT would weigh more as a diversity factor (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former Rep. Barney Frank said he wishes consideration of being LGBT would have been weighed more heavily as a diversity factor in the decision to appoint an interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

In a brief interview with the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Frank said he didn’t want to discuss his personal feelings about Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) passing him over for the role in favor of former chief of staff William “Mo” Cowan, but noted he was “eager to get in and work on the issues.”

“But let me tell you, there was one thing that sort of troubled me in the discussion about it — nobody was particularly quoted; they attributed something to governor’s office and others — was that the governor would want to appoint someone who’s either a minority or a woman,” Frank added. “And what troubled me is the question of LGBT people was just kind of swept out. I’ve never asked for any appointment based on me being gay, but when they begin talk about the importance of diversity and leave us out, that troubles me.”

While Cowan’s appointment was hailed a milestone for diversity in terms of race because he’s black, Frank said the lack of attention to being LGBT as a diversity factor suggests those involved with the decision were unaware of President Obama’s inaugural address in which he mentioned the 1969 Stonewall riots in the same line as other iconic civil rights moments.

“It’s almost as if some people didn’t listen to the president when he said, ‘Seneca, Stonewall and Selma,’ and didn’t hear the Stonewall part,” Frank said.

Additionally, Frank said he thinks being first the person in the Senate who’s in a same-sex marriage would have had an impact on other senators.

“Just as it was in the House, I think being a same-sex married couple in the Senate could have took an important lesson home to some of them,” Frank said.

Patrick’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

The former lawmaker was public about his interest in the position of interim U.S. senator, telling the Boston Globe he believes his experience in finance would be beneficial as the Senate takes on budget issues.

Frank said he met Cowan a couple of times when they were working together on a project for Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district, but doesn’t know him well enough to evaluate whether he’d be a good interim senator.

“I don’t know him well,” Frank said. “I assume anybody is going to vote a particular way in Massachusetts. I don’t know him well enough to be able to judge.”

After announcing he was interested in the interim position, Frank reversed himself on earlier opposition to the appointment of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary based on 1998 anti-gay comments made against James Hormel and came out in support of the nomination. Hagel’s confirmation hearing is Thursday.

Even though he was passed over for the interim job, Frank said he’s still supportive of Hagel based on a desire to end the war in Afghanistan and reduce the military budget, despite those anti-gay remarks.

“I don’t think there’s any excuse for it; I wish Obama had appointed somebody else,” Frank said. “I guess what I have to say about Hagel, there’s an old Arab proverb, I’m told, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That makes Hagel my friend-enemy. My unhappiness over his bigoted comment is outweighed by the substance today of whether or not we pull out of Afghanistan and cut the military budget.”

Frank also had positive things to say about President Obama’s gay inclusion in the inaugural address, calling it a “victory lap” after Obama’s earlier endorsement of same-sex marriage and victory at the polls.

“When he did that, it was both a celebration and a reinforcement for the future,” Frank said.

30
Jan
2013