Let Me Be Frank About Frank

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 26 2012 2:30 PM

Let Me Be Frank About Frank

Michael Levenson talks to Rep. Barney Frank and gets an earful about Obamacare. "Bad economic times are not good times to do something that makes people nervous," says Frank. Levenson chats up other Democrats with less-dark views of the reform. It all goes well until Levenson explains why this story exists.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Frank first raised his concerns in an interview published this month in New York magazine... in an interview with the Globe, Frank said that when the bill surfaced in 2009, he raised concerns about its timing with administration officials and congressional leaders, whom he declined to name. He said he is speaking publicly about his concerns now because “I was asked what I thought.’’

Hang on: No. This isn't true at all. Jason Zengerle's interview with Frank generated the umpteenth, not the first, quote about why the health care bill should have died on the operating table. On January 15, 2010:

If Scott Brown wins, it'll kill the health bill.
If Martha Coakley had won, I believe we could have worked out a reasonable compromise between the House and Senate healthcare bills. But since Scott Brown has won and the Republicans now have 41 votes in the Senate, that approach is no longer appropriate.

The same day:

We're back to where we were maybe even years ago.

On July 21, 2011, defending his financial reform law:

My Republican colleagues, unlike [with] climate change and health care, don't want to take this one head-on, because it is still too popular.

This is a total mystery to me. Why is Frank's Obamacare-skepticism still presented as breaking news? Frank, along with Rahm Emanuel, was a leading voice for splitting the bill up. Unlike Emanuel, he'd had to face down angry voters in his own district -- he was spooked and he said so. As he gets ready to retire he's talking more like a prophet than a worrier, but it was extremely significant, in early 2010, for the liberal Financial Services chairman to talk out loud about scrapping health care.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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