A Broader Bully Pulpit

As Congress grapples with solutions for a faltering economy, Barney Frank sits at the center of power.



Barney Frank smaller (Getty) | Advocate.com

“The only
one who makes it an issue is me, because I want to remind
them that the person they should be grateful to is a
gay man who has a boyfriend,” says Frank, who
consciously discusses his boyfriend, Jim Ready, the
way his colleagues talk about their wives.
“It’s never been a negative issue. I
want to remind people that’s who I am.”

That includes
using his trademark wit. When asked why the White House has
been reluctant to support more government intervention in
financial markets, Frank quips, “It’s
like asking me to judge the Miss America contest -- if
your heart’s not in it, you don’t do a very
good job.”

The housing
relief bill was “very close to the top” in
terms of the most complex issues on which he’s
worked, Frank says. Successfully steering the bill
through the House meant delicate negotiations with
Republican representatives and the White House as well
as with Senate members working on their own version of
the bill. In addition, a wide range of disparate
interests -- from the mortgage industry to low-income
housing advocates -- also weighed in on the measure.
Frank sees it as a sign of the bill’s success
that after it passed he received congratulations from
both Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Sheila
Crowley, head of the National Low Income Housing

Frank is famously
impatient with anyone who doesn’t meet his level of
expectations, but his intelligence has earned him the
respect of the business community. He’s
frequently invited to speak at corporations where he
interacts with powerful individuals for whom gay and lesbian
rights are not likely to be foremost.

For the
foreseeable future, Frank will likely be able to keep using
his platform as committee chair as a reminder that gay
rights also matter. “His power depends on the
Democrats remaining in power, which they will for the
next two years at least,” says Sabato. But just as
important, he says, Frank clearly relishes his work.
“I think he really enjoys the House of
Representatives. He’s a classic man of the

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