Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has played an integral role in the government's efforts to rescue the housing and financial markets in the face of a global economic crisis.
Mr. Frank took over the committee chairmanship after the midterm elections of 2006, at a time when millions of Americans were buying homes with little money down and using subprime mortgages. As the number of foreclosures began to soar in 2007, Mr. Frank drafted legislation to curtail predatory lending practices and to help distressed homeowners.
As the crisis deepened in 2008, Mr. Frank called for tougher and broader regulation of the financial system, and worked with the Bush administration in the summer to provide aid to homeowners at risk of foreclosure. He emerged as an unlikely bridge between his party's liberal base and the free-market conservatives in the administration, particularly Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.
With banks continuing to tighten lending and squeeze the economy, Mr. Frank took a more prominent role. On Sept. 18, Mr. Paulson asked for emergency legislation to set up a $700 billion program to buy up mortgage-backed securities whose value had dropped sharply or had become impossible to sell. Mr. Frank helped draft tentative legislation within days, adding limits on executive pay and other changes.
The initial House vote ended in rejection, with opposition from members in both parties. Days later, with stock markets plunging, a much sweetened deal passed the Senate and then the House.
Mr. Frank has earned a reputation during his 28 years in Congress as a sharp-tongued and quick-witted debater, an astute deal maker and one of the most colorful and quotable figures in Congress.
In 1987, he became the first member of Congress to voluntarily acknowledge he was gay. Mr. Frank's political career appeared doomed in 1989 after a newspaper reported that he had hired a male prostitute as a sexual companion and later as a household employee and that the man had used the congressman's Capitol Hill apartment to run a prostitution business. Mr. Frank admitted a relationship but denied knowledge of the prostitution ring. After an 11-month investigation by a House ethics panel, Mr. Frank was reprimanded for improperly using his office, but a Republican-led effort to censure him and expel him from Congress failed.
Mr. Frank was born and raised in Bayonne, N.J. He has degrees from Harvard and Harvard Law School, and after working on Kevin White's mayoral campaign in Boston he ran successfully for the Massachusetts Legislature. He was elected to Congress in 1980. (Oct. 9, 2008)
Highlights From the Archives
Lawmakers are considering sweeping changes to the Depression-era securities laws and regulatory agencies that failed to prevent the economic downturn.March 26, 2009businessQuestion
Barney Frank, the rumpled, cantankerous Massachusetts Democrat, has emerged as a key deal-maker in the House.May 13, 2008washingtonNews
The bill is part of a measure aimed at curbing what some consumer advocates say are deceptive lending practices aimed at people with low incomes or poor credit histories.October 23, 2007businessNews
With a political style that frequently seems more suited to an opposition backbencher in the British Parliament, Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, has earned a reputation during his 14 years in Congress as a sharp-tongued and quick-witted debater, an astute deal maker and one of the most colorful and quotable figures in the Congress.January 6, 1995usBiography
"He's left me out!" Representative Barney Frank said with a frown one recent morning in Washington. "Can you believe this? Oliver North writes up a list of the 25 most dangerous liberals in Washington and he leaves me out!"February 4, 1996magazineBiography
For some Democrats, the road to a health care bill recalled the civil rights marches of the 1960s.March 22, 2010
In creating an agency to protect consumers from deceptive financial practices, the biggest hurdle for Congress and the White house is figuring out how independent it should be.March 6, 2010
Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, called Friday for a new system to provide money for home loans.January 23, 2010
A history of Playboy, a biography of Barney Frank, a memoir of Jack Kerouac and a collection of essays from David Hajdu.January 17, 2010
A regulatory overhaul meant to address what supporters call underlying causes of the financial crisis has yet to pass the Senate.December 12, 2009
They said their legislation would protect consumers in their dealings with financial institutions while holding executives rather than taxpayers accountable.December 11, 2009
Facing political pressure to abandon “fair value” accounting for banks, the chairman of the board that sets American accounting standards will call for new rules.December 8, 2009
As the Federal Reserve has come under scrutiny, Ben S. Bernanke, its chairman, is nurturing political ties.November 11, 2009
The current proposal for regulating too-big-to-fail firms is flawed and does not fulfill the mandates for transparency and accountability.October 31, 2009
A House committee cleared the way for an agency that would monitor consumer lenders for abuse.October 23, 2009
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