Unlikely alliance: Congressman Barney Frank and the Tea Party

March 2, 2011

At first glance it would appear that Congressman Barney Frank and lawmakers backed by the Tea Party movement would have little in common — one is a liberal Democrat, the others are conservative Republicans.

Look again.

FINANCE-SUMMIT/Frank said his quest to reduce military spending will probably attract Tea Party lawmakers who campaigned on a platform of fiscal discipline, even to cuts in an area that typically meet strong resistance from Republicans.

“I think the notion of nation building, of America enforcing stability over the world … is wasted money because it doesn’t work,” Frank told the Reuters Future Face of Finance summit. “I think there’s some potential alliance there.”

Frank also sees another area in which the Tea Party might be allies — any attempt by the Republican majority in the House to roll back reforms on derivatives in the wake of the financial crisis. “If they were to try to roll back derivatives regulation legislatively, yes, the Tea Party people would be allies of ours,” he said.

What about their ideological differences? “You learn to work with people that you don’t have anything in common with,” Frank said.

The former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee says being in the minority now has its moments.

“It’s more fun, but less satisfying,” Frank said.

“I’m not under an enormous amount of stress,”  he said. “From the summer of 2008 and every Friday, I would wait for the phone to ring and it would be (former Treasury Secretary) Hank Paulson saying ‘the market’s closed, x has fallen, y is in danger’ — and it was a very stressful time,” he said.

“Generally, the last thing I thought about when I was going to sleep was the number 36 — 36 was a majority of 71 — 36 was what I needed to get anything through that committee,” Frank said.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang (Representative Barney Frank at Reuters summit)

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