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Washington

A Way With Words

Published: May 13, 2008

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, is a master of the one-liner — a self-described “left-handed, gay Jew” who is not accustomed to being in the majority on anything and yet is one of the most powerful members of Congress. Here are some examples, customarily delivered rapid-fire in his trademark accent, a New Jersey-Boston blend.

MARCH 11 “Mr. Speaker, a parliamentary inquiry. Mr. Speaker, is blatant hypocrisy a violation of the rules of the House?”

Responding to Republican complaints that Democrats had extended the voting period for 15 minutes to win approval of a bill creating an independent House ethics office. In 2003, the Republicans once extended the voting period for three hours to get their desired outcome.

NOV. 7, 2007 “I am grateful for the obscurity of the opposition’s argument.”

In a debate over the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, a bill to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation.

JULY 18, 2006 “So, apparently, same-sex marriage is the V8 juice of America.”

During a debate over a “marriage protection” amendment, Mr. Frank said he did not understand Republican arguments that gay marriages would undermine traditional marriages, as if happily married men in Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas and Mississippi, learning that same-sex marriage was legal in Massachusetts, would smack themselves in the head and declare, “Wow, I could have married a guy.”

SEPT. 11, 1986 “I am afraid that this bill is becoming the legislative equivalent to crack. It’s going to give people a short-term high, but it is going to be dangerous in the long run to the system and expensive to boot.”

During debate on a bill authorizing $4 billion for the war on drugs, and allowing the military to protect the nation’s borders from drug traffickers.

MARCH 6, 1984 “Well, if this is a Christian nation, how come some poor Jew has to get up at 5:30 in the morning to preside over the House of Representatives?”

Mr. Frank, in an interview describing his reaction when Representative Marjorie S. Holt, Republican of Maryland, declared America to be a Christian nation during an all-night debate over school prayer. Mr. Frank, who is Jewish, was presiding as the speaker pro tem.

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