Former US Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) holds a news conference on issues before the House Financial Services Committee, November 3, 2009. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Well, of course, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick should pick former Congressman Barney Frank to fill the US Senate vacancy that will be created when John Kerry is confirmed as the nation’s sixty-eighth Secretary of State.
In the absence of the reform that is needed—a requirement that all senators be elected—governors are going to pick interim senators. The Massachusetts system is actually better than in most states; when a seat comes vacant the appointee only serves for three or four months before a new senator is selected in a special election.
The question with regard to the interim senator, then, is whether the state will be represented by a placeholder or someone who can actually make an immediate and significant contribution.
There are several prospects for the Massachusetts seat who would be good senators. Some have even suggested former Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, although Dukakis says he does not want the position.
Frank does want it.
Just days ago having finished serving thirty-two years as one of the most outspoken and engaged members of the US House of Representatives, he’s actively campaigning for appointment to Kerry’s seat. And he's attracted significant support for the effort, including an "Appoint Barney Frank to the Senate" campaign by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that played a pivotal role in getting Elizabeth Warren into the race for the other Senate seat from Massachusetts — and getting her elected.
Frank makes the best case for his selection, arguing that his experience as a former chairman of and ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee makes him uniquely qualified to serve during a period when —because the “Fiscal Cliff” deal has set up huge fights over everything from raising the debt ceiling to sequester cuts—the focus of the Congress will be on issues on which he’s something of an expert.
“A few weeks ago, I said I wasn’t interested,” Frank explains. “It was kind of like you’re about to graduate, and they said, ‘You gotta go to summer school.’ But [the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal] now means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial history.”