Barney Frank's words struck from record

House debate on a capital formation bill on Wednesday quickly turned into a heated political fight between Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), prompting Hensarling to ask — successfully — that Frank's words be stricken from the record.

The two members fought over a bill from Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), H.R. 4088, which was introduced recently and was inserted into the larger capital formation bill now being debated, H.R. 3606. Quayle's language would increase the number of shareholders that can invest in a community bank from 500 to 2,000.

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But Frank said Quayle's bill is essentially legislation that Reps. Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Jim Himes (D-Conn.) were pursuing, and accused GOP leaders of giving the credit to Quayle.

"I do want to say, and I have thought very much about what I am about to say — that's shameful," Frank said. "Shameful on the part of the Republican leadership that engaged in this cheap maneuver … shameful on the part of the member who would be the beneficiary of it.

"I am very disappointed in a leadership that would do this, and in a member who would accept credit for a bill with which he had so little to do."

One House staffer noted that Schweikert and Quayle are running against each other in the Arizona primary this year, due to redistricting changes in Arizona. This staffer said the GOP leadership's effort to give Quayle some credit could show that the leadership wants to help Quayle, although Schweikert is also credited with two portions of the bill.

Hensarling, who was leading debate on the bill for Republicans, responded tersely: "The American people care about jobs and economic growth, not a John Grisham novel of intrigue."

But in-between other speakers, Frank asked Hensarling why Republicans seem to care so much about the intrigue involved in letting another member take credit for the bill.

Hensarling replied by quoting former President Ronald Reagan's line about how more work can get done if you don't care about who gets the credit. At that, Frank dismissed Hensarling's remarks and said it was disingenuous to say that Democrats cared about who gets the credit when Republicans are the ones who gave the bill to Quayle.

"I have never seen truth stood on its head more rapidly than my colleague from Texas. It is they who engage in this credit-grabbing," Frank said. "For the gentleman from Texas, having been part of the leadership that engaged in that shameful maneuver, to now accuse us of being excessively concerned with credit, is the most hypocritical and dishonest statement I have heard uttered in this House."

That last response prompted Hensarling to ask that Frank's words be stricken from the record. After a delay of more than 15 minutes, the chair decided to strike Frank's words. Under House rules, members whose words are taken out of the record cannot speak for the remainder of the day without permission, and when consideration of the bill began again, Frank was replaced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Waters said in her opening remarks that giving the bill to Quayle alone "undermines the spirit" of bipartisan cooperation in the House.

In an interview with The Hill later in the afternoon, Frank said he has "never seen anything like this," and said he knew that his words would likely be stricken from the record.

"I decided to draw attention to it, and I figured the best way to do that, frankly, was to create a little bit of noise about it," Frank said.

He said that this was the first time his words were ever stricken from the record, and said House rules are clear that members cannot question the motives of their colleagues. "We can tell outrageous lies about anybody in the world, but we cannot tell the truth about each other if it's unpleasant."

A spokesman for Quayle, Zach Howell, said Quayle's bill is different from the proposal put forward by Schweikert and Himes, in part because the latter bill required a study that would have delayed implementation of the provision.

"The simple fact of the matter is these are not identical bills," Howell said, adding that Quayle's language is more likely to pass in the Senate.

Himes himself took to the floor late in the debate and said he is fine with Quayle's language making it into the bill, although he did take a shot at Quayle's father's famous "potato" spelling gaffe while he was vice president.

"There may be only one way to spell 'potato,' but there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and if we're going to skin this cat in this way, I'm OK with that," he said.

No one asked that Himes's remarks be removed from the record.