One of Congress’ most outspoken representatives did not mince words when it came to the state of affairs in Washington at an event in the Marvin Center Monday night.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services committee, spoke to an enthusiastic, standing-room only crowd and made blunt pronouncements on the economy, partisanship and gay rights.
“Justice Antonin Scalia is a bigot and an outright homophobe,” Frank declared of the conservative Supreme Court justice.
One of only a few openly gay members of Congress, Frank said he feared a conservative-leaning Supreme Court would overturn any legislative progress on gay rights. He also discussed the importance of legalizing same-sex marriage and ending discrimination and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military.
Frank praised the Congressional Black Caucus for their support of gay rights issues.
“The most supportive group for gay issues has been the Congressional Black Caucus; in fact they have been more supportive than some of the gay members of Congress,” he said.
Frank said that while politicians might talk about bipartisanship and the dangers of polarization, the truth is that parties are both necessary and positive institutions.
“It is disconcerting to see that people do not want to be part of political parties,” he said. “There never were ‘good old days.’ Parties are more coherently divided than they ever have been.”
He likewise dismissed any talk of postpartisanship.
“To me a postpartisan government would be like postpartum depression,” he said, adding, “The reality is that 85 to 90 percent of Democrats and Republicans will always vote with their party.”
Frank also touched on some of his political opponents, particularly the National Rifle Association – which he called the “most militant political organization in our country.”
“They use no rallies or protests but they influence members of Congress in effective ways,” he said. “The NRA creates single-issue voters.”
But Frank said he would not shy away from any confrontation.
“I like to engage my enemies and try to persuade them, and I am honest about who I am,” he said.
In his capacity as chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Frank has been deeply involved in the ongoing financial crisis. He refused to speculate on whether the federal government would buy more shares of Citigroup and Bank of America and plans to reserve judgment on the next step for the federal government until he hears from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Frank compared helping the banking system to the collateral damage that occurs when militaries kill civilians along with the enemy.
“This is collateral benefit where you are trying to save the system while helping sons of bitches you would rather slap,” he said.
College Democrats President Cory Struble said he was pleased with Frank’s appearance on campus.
Struble said, “We were very excited to have Barney Frank accept our invitation and he loves speaking to college students.”