US & Canada

Democrat Barney Frank to retire from US House

Barney Frank (file pic)
Image caption Barney Frank chaired the House Financial Services Committee for four turbulent years

One of the most prominent Democrats in the US House of Representatives, Barney Frank, will not seek re-election in 2012.

Mr Frank, 71, said his decision to retire was partly based on redistricting plans in Massachusetts.

A prominent liberal, he was the co-author of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010.

He was elected to represent Massachusetts in 1980 and became one of the first openly gay US politicians.

In the Monday news conference, Mr Frank said that Massachusetts' redistricting in 2012 was part of the reason for his retirement.

The state is to lose one representative in the House of Representatives. Mr Frank said that his new district would include many people he has never represented before.

"I know my own capacity and energy levels and it would have been a mistake... I could not have put the requisite effort in," he said.

Long service

Mr Frank has been a key Democratic member of the House for many years, including as chair and as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

As chair, Mr Frank helped pass the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, which contained the strongest restrictions on banks and Wall Street since the Great Depression, and helped create the 2008 bailout legislation.

In 1987 Mr Frank publicly acknowledged he was gay, becoming one of the first US politicians to do so.

A few years later he was reprimanded by Congress for using his congressional status on behalf of a male prostitute he had employed as a personal assistant, including seeking the dismissal of 33 parking tickets.

He also strongly opposed the Iraq war, consistently voting against authorisation and funding bills in Congress.

Quick responses

Mr Frank is known for his outspoken liberal beliefs, and has attracted headlines for his speeches on the floor of the House and even when meeting constituents.

At a town hall meeting in 2009, a woman asked Mr Frank how he could continue to "support a Nazi policy", referring to Mr Obama's healthcare reform plans. She held a picture of the president with a Hitler-like moustache.

Mr Frank replied: "It is a tribute to the first amendment [of the US Constitution] that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.

"Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table," he added. "I have no interest in it."

Mr Frank joins 16 Democrats and six Republicans who will not seek new terms in the House of Representatives in 2012.

Because of changes to congressional district boundaries, Massachusetts will lose one seat in the House of Representatives in the next election. However, the plans do not affect Mr Frank's district.

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