WASHINGTON -- Financial executives and Capitol Hill colleagues who thought they had seen the last of sharp-tongued Rep. Barney Frank holding court from atop a congressional dais might face him again soon -- if only for a short while.
The outspoken Massachusetts Democrat, whose 16 terms in the House officially ended this week, said Friday he wanted to be the interim replacement for Sen. John Kerry.
Kerry (D-Mass.) has been nominated by President Obama to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of State. If Kerry is confirmed, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, would appoint someone to hold the seat until a special election could be held a few months later.
With Congress set to make major decisions on government spending cuts and raising the nation's debt ceiling this winter, Frank said he'd like to rejoin the fray.
Such an appointment after looking forward to his retirement from Congress struck him at the time as being "kind of like you’re about to graduate, and they said, ‘You've got to go to summer school,’ ” Frank said.
But the recent "fiscal cliff" tax deal, which put off major decisions about government spending until the end of February, is going to be a crucial period in Washington, Frank said. In addition to the decision on spending cuts, the debt ceiling must be raised by about the same time and a new spending bill must be passed in March.
“That deal now means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial and economic history,” Frank said.
As chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, Frank helped pass one of the Obama administration's signature accomplishments, the 2010 sweeping overhaul of financial rules. The legislation is called Dodd-Frank after him and his Senate partner in pushing it through, former Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.)
Dodd opted not to seek re-election in 2010 and now heads the Motion Picture Assn. of America. Frank, the first member of Congress to voluntarily announce he is gay, lost the committee chairmanship when Republicans took over the House after the 2010 mid-term elections.
He spent the last two years fighting off attempts to weaken Dodd-Frank. But with the boundaries of his congressional district changed, Frank said in late 2011 that he would not seek re-election.
Frank, 72, is not interested in running to fill the rest of Kerry's term and planned to do some lecturing and write a couple of books. But Frank said Friday he would like to cross over to the Senate side of the Capitol building and hold the job for a short time.“I’m not going to be coy...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... It's almost, to be honest, a little arrogant, 'Coach, put me in.' ”