Barney Frank Will Retire From Congress

Z. Byron Wolf
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Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Rep. Barney Frank, the first openly gay serving member of Congress and a powerful Democrat whose name is attached to the sweeping Wall Street reform bill, will announce today he doesn’t plan to seek reelection.

Frank became the first openly gay member of Congress six years after he first took office, coming out in 1987 and breaking an important barrier in American politics.

He survived scandal to become one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill during 30 years in office. The Massachusetts congressman chaired the House Financial Services Committee when Democrats were in the majority from early 2007 until early 2011, becoming the main House Democrat overseeing the financial industry during one of the most turbulent economic eras of U.S. history.

Frank was instrumental in ushering the Wall Street bailout through Congress in 2008. And he, along with Chris Dodd, have their names attached to a sweeping Wall Street reform bill passed through Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010.

Dodd resigned in 2010 rather than face a tough reelection fight.

The Wall Street reform bill – known as “Dodd-Frank” – placed tough new rules on the financial sector as a way to avoid future mortgage crises. It also enacted a new Consumer Financial Protection  Bureau to protect Americans from large corporations. The law has been pilloried by Republicans as Washington overreach.

Frank is noted on Capitol Hill for his unkempt appearance, often untucked shirttails and pugnacious speaking style. He often dismisses reporters’ questions with disdain, has a quick wit, and is known to verbally joust with colleagues.

He has not been without controversy. Frank admitted to paying a male prostitute who was living in his Capitol Hill apartment in the 1980s and servicing other clients there.

Frank survived attempts to expel him from the House and stayed on to become one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington. He will discuss his decision not to run in Boston at a 1 p.m. news conference.

Democrats do not expect to have a problem winning the district in Frank’s absence. Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry both garnered more than 60 percent of the vote there in 2008.