Should Barney Frank return to Capitol Hill?

Updated
Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.
Steven Senne/AP

Don’t call it a comeback:  he’s been here for years.

Democratic Congressman Barney Frank just resigned. But now he’s expressing interest in becoming the interim senator for Massachusetts, and several lawmakers and progressive groups have been rallying around the liberal stalwart.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said if Frank is appointed to be a senator “he will be extraordinary.” The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and SignOn.org started online petitions aimed at pressuring Gov. Deval Patrick to name Frank as interim senator. And the Boston Globe this week backed Frank in an editorial.

The seat would become vacant if John Kerry is confirmed as the next Secretary of State, which is likely to happen soon. Then Frank’s fate falls to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who will make the appointment. Patrick has said he would likely choose someone who will have the seat temporarily until a special election takes place to find someone permanent.

“I literally changed my mind sitting in the caucus,” Frank told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Thursday, insisting he had no interest in the position as late as last month. Upcoming legislation on the country’s debt limit, he eventually realized, “is going to be equivalent in some ways to the New Deal,” said Frank. “There are conservatives who are going to try to use that to cut Social Security, cut Medicare. They’re going to try to shift the cuts we said we were going to make out of the military…and make cuts in the environment, and housing and transportation. I just believe I’m better prepared having done what I’ve done [in the House] to do this,” said Frank.

So is Kerry’s seat a shoo-in for the popular Frank, who has gone on a media blitz to make his case? Not necessarily.

Doug Rubin, a top adviser to Patrick, tweeted there were “better options” available than Frank. He elaborated to the Boston Globe, saying “there are a lot of smart, talented individuals from Massachusetts who could bring some fresh ideas and energy to Washington.”

There’s also the fact that Democratic Rep. Ed Markey has already thrown his hat into the ring and has the backing of Kerry and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Other names in the mix include former Gov. Michael Dukakis and Victoria Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Some, like Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post, argue it’s “not difficult to see why Patrick might want to choose someone else.” He wrote: “Frank has never been afraid to speak his mind or go after pols or decisions he disagrees with. That makes him something of a wildcard.”

But Frank has shown he is willing to toe the party line. After saying he was “strongly opposed” to Obama-endorsed Chuck Hagel’s appointment as secretary of defense over anti-gay remarks, the openly gay Democrat said “with the attack coming out of the right, I hope he gets confirmed.”

Frank on Hardball said he was unhappy about Hagel’s remarks but at the end of the day, “he’s the man that’s going to help us withdraw from Afghanistan and reduce the military. And I’m very encouraged by that.”

But as Steve Kornacki, co-host for msnbc’s The Cycle and political writer at Salon.com notes, Frank might be shooting himself in the foot by being so public about his intentions. “Most people making decisions on appointments probably don’t appreciate a public pressure campaign,” said Kornacki.

But Frank is in the running, according to Patrick. “Congressman Frank is a gifted legislator and he would be a great senator even on an interim basis. There are factors I am considering and he is definitely on the list,” the governor said.

Should Barney Frank return to Capitol Hill?

Updated