Rep. Barney Frank announced his retirement yesterday after 32 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is truly the end of an era. The exit of the fiery Massachusetts Democrat opens the door for a fight over his powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, if the Democrats are able to win back the House next fall.
His retirement also highlights the make up of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and one detail about them: they aren’t exactly spring chickens.
To be sure, it’s not all of them. Recent rising stars like Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) are a couple of solid CBC members from a younger generation. They are of the generation that didn’t march with Martin or even participate in the Freedom Rides and instead studied him and the civil rights era.
The majority of the CBC however is older with the likes of Alcee Hastings (D-FL), James Clyburn (D-SC), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) members of Congress with ties to a different generation entirely. Simply put these members are the core of black beltway political power outside of the oval office. Is it time for new blood?
For example, with decades in Congress allegations of corruption and impropriety can sometimes surface. Specifically, with Maxine Waters (D-CA) whose rise to chairman of Financial Services Committee may be more difficult than is usual based on only on seniority. With Frank’s retirement announcement Rep. Waters began the usual phone lobbying of democratic leadership to line up support for her to take over job as chairwoman. But it may not be that simple.
Waters who has been in Congress for 20 years and who is the highest ranking woman in the CBC, is in the midst of an House ethics investigation and thus may not be the natural successor to Frank. It’s up to the democratic leadership to determine if putting Waters in the position is a smart political move. With decades in Congress, comes more cynicism and opportunities for political shenanigans that can lead to ethics charges.
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