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A Curtain Call for Barney Frank?

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Rep. Barney Frank gives the keynote at an LGBT event in Washington, D.C., on Jun. 7, 2012.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture / Flickr

Life is a full circle in many ways. My very first interview as an aspiring journalist was with Massachusetts State Representative Barney Frank. Back then, to record the interview, you had to temporarily vandalize your telephone. After dis-assembling the handset, you attached roach-clips to the ear portion and a jack to a cassette tape recorder and hit RECORD.

As naïve journalists go, so went my first, shaky and scripted question: "Representative Frank, how will you solve the parking problem in the Back Bay?" Thankfully, he didn't embarrass me.

Fast forward to today and Congressman Barney Frank has 32 years of wind at his back. It all ends when the 113th Congress comes to town January 3rd. But is there one curtain call to cap his legacy? Could Frank be a contender to replace Senator John Kerry, the odds-on favorite to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?

The next Senate will have to deal with spirited newcomers, ready to change the landscape and fight the partisan gridlock. Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts promises to fight the filibuster rules on Day One, to force Senators "to stand on the floor of the chamber and defend their opposition" to a bill or a nomination. Right now, a Senator can just call in their objection and leave town. Warren says Senate Republicans have used this type of filibuster "380 times since the Democrats took over the majority in 2006."

This procedural fight is one Barney Frank could relish. Imagine the civility shift of Frank in the Senate, even on an interim basis. Far more than entertainment and theatrics, Frank's career of 'taking no prisoners' could shakeup the more prestigious chamber at a time the public wants progress from politicians.

"He doesn’t do hypotheticals," the Congressman's Communications Director Harry Gural told me today. In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick fields what seems like daily questions about naming an interim Senator. Last Friday, Patrick repeated his refrain. "I can say at the outset I don’t have a decision to make yet so I don’t want to get ahead of that fact. The first decision has to be made by the President and if it’s the one that everyone is speculating about then things start to happen."

It's clear people are lining up for John Kerry's job even though Governor Patrick won't show his cards. "Rumors, rumors, all rumors. First of all I haven’t reached out to anyone, but I do have a lot of people who have come and talked to me about their interest in running for a whole host of offices, and as much as possible I make myself available for those conversations and I offer any insight I can. And those are confidential conversations and I’m going to keep them that way."

It's hard to imagine Barney Frank being one of those people lobbying for the Senate job. His is a career that started small and went big: from Executive Assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin White to Beacon Hill and then Capitol Hill. He's defended President Clinton through impeachment and has worked to regulate the financial industry. Today, the financial reform bill Dodd-Frank is again under fire from Republicans and Frank is calling for the prosecution of people implicated in the financial crisis. Does this sound like a man ready to leave the dance?

This week, with just days left in his storied political career, Frank signed off in an interview with WGBH Radio's Emily Rooney. "I am trapped in a lame duck Congress." That is, unless he moves from the south wing of the Capitol….to the north.

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