NEWTON, Mass. -- Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, a gay pioneer in Congress and a Massachusetts liberal whose name, as well as fingerprints, are on last year's sweeping bill regulating Wall Street, announced plans yesterday to retire at the end of his current term, his 16th in Congress.
"There are other things I would like to do with my life," the 71-year-old lawmaker said at a news conference. He added that his retirement plans were hastened by two years by reapportionment, which moved 325,000 new constituents into his district.
Frank's career has traced an arc from early promise to near career-wrecking scandal to legislative triumph, accompanied by a quick-witted intelligence and an often partisan and frequently acerbic speaking style. Unusual for a politician, his appearance is routinely less than impeccable, and he once distributed posters as a candidate for the Massachusetts Legislature that said, "Neatness isn't everything. Re-elect Barney."
In Congress, Frank has fought for years to hold down what he viewed as excessive military spending, and said one of his objectives for his final year in office is to make sure the Pentagon shares in any deficit-cutting measures that take place.
Frank is the 17th Democrat to announce he will not seek re-election in 2012, when Democrats face an uphill battle to gain the 25 seats they need to win a majority. By contrast, six Republicans are retiring.
In a written statement, President Barack Obama hailed Frank's "passion and his quick wit." -- AP