Frank, Baldwin Have Tough Criticism for Ryan as Policy Wonk, Not as Person

Gay Democrats offered nice words about their colleague as a person, but they blasted the policies championed by Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick.

BY Julie Bolcer

August 13 2012 7:47 PM ET

Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank, the two most senior openly gay members of Congress, commented on the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate with kind words about him personally while harshly criticizing his policy stances.

Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, revealed Ryan as his pick on Saturday. Rep. Barney Frank, the most senior openly gay member of Congress, said that on LGBT issues, Ryan brings “a terrible record, not a perfectly bad one.” The Massachusetts Democrat said his colleague voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, but only after first voting for a parliamentary maneuver that would have killed the bill.

“It puts to rest the notion that Romney might try to move to the center and moderate,” said Frank of the pick in a telephone interview Monday with The Advocate. “Clearly, in going to Ryan, he’s decidedly affirmed his right-wing position.”

Ryan’s record on LGBT issues includes support for a federal marriage amendment and opposition to hate-crimes protections and repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” among other votes. Most recently, he voted for an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that affirmed the Defense of Marriage Act.

Still, Frank said that he did not expect the Republican ticket to raise LGBT issues because voters are focused on the economy, where he characterized Ryan as “very much an extremist” on budget matters. In addition, public opinion has shifted in favor of items including marriage equality, which Democrats have supported in their platform and, more importantly for Frank, multiple votes against DOMA.

“They don’t play as large because we’re winning on them,” he said. “I don’t expect them to make a big deal about it in the campaign, but more seriously, they’ll do the wrong thing if they win.”

Despite their policy differences, Frank, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee who is retiring this year, described his relationship with Ryan as “amiable.” He said the two have never discussed LGBT issues, but Ryan’s wife Janna sat next to his husband Jim Ready at the inauguration of President Obama in 2009, and she took his picture. Frank and Ready married in Massachusetts last month.

Ryan is a seven-term incumbent from Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee who is best known for a budget plan that would drastically reduce government spending while lowering taxes for the wealthy. Baldwin criticized his economic blueprint in a statement Saturday that first mentioned her friendship with Ryan.

“Paul and I went to Congress together in 1998; I consider him a friend. We have always managed to disagree without being disagreeable,” she said. “We have both dedicated our lives to public service, but I am committed to building a much different road to the future.”

Baldwin is running for U.S. Senate, and the statement was issued through her campaign. She took the opportunity to distinguish herself from Ryan and connect him to her four prospective Republican challengers. Wisconsin voters will pick the party’s nominee in a primary tomorrow.

“Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and all my opponents in the Senate race believe that we can move our economy forward by looking to the policies of the past that failed and got us into our fiscal mess in the first place,” she said. “They all support providing budget busting tax cuts to millionaires and paying for them by increasing out of pocket health care costs for seniors, increasing the cost of higher education for students and their families, and ending Medicare as we know it for future generations.”

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