By Justin Sink - 11/28/11 07:20 PM EST
The political world reacted with surprise to the Monday announcement that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) would not seek reelection, ending 30 years of service as one of Congress's most outspoken, and influential, members.
As with much of Frank's career, opinion on the announcement split down party lines, with Democrats commemorating a champion of liberal politics and Republicans crowing over his departure.
The president's sentiments were echoed by leading congressional Democrats.
"America, and the principles for which it stands, have been well-served by Congressman Barney Frank during his over three decades of service in the Congress," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer in a statement. "He has brought an exceptional intellect, political courage, common sense, a wonderful wit, and a love of country and of the People’s House to his service. He will be greatly missed."
John Kerry said that Frank's "voice will be deeply missed in the Congress and in our
delegation" and praised the congressman's authenticity.
"No one’s ever doubted for a minute what Barney Frank thinks or where he
stands, and if you weren’t sure, trust me, he’d tell you," Kerry said in a statement. "That’s the
special quality that has made Barney not just beloved and quotable, but
unbelievably effective as an advocate and a legislator. He’s brave,
he’s bold, and he’s ridiculously smart."
Fellow Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey called Frank a "historic figure" and a "voice for the voiceless" in a tweet. Other Democratic colleagues took a similar tack, with Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) calling Frank "one of [the] most powerful and compelling progressive voices" and praising his "sense of humor and intelligence," and Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) saying Frank's retirement was a "huge loss for the Congress and for our country."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Frank's "extraordinary career in public office will leave a lasting legacy on
behalf of justice, human rights, consumer protection, affordable
housing, and better economic opportunity for all Americans."
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (NY) praised Frank and expressed confidence that Democrats would retain his seat.
"This is a strong Democratic district that President Obama won with 61 percent and Senator John Kerry won and we look forward to electing a Democrat next November who will create jobs, protect the middle class and the Medicare guarantee for seniors rather than tax breaks for billionaires,” Israel said.
Republicans were less praiseworthy in reacting to Frank's retirement. The liberal icon clashed frequently, and loudly, with the GOP, including parting shots criticizing the party's top presidential candidates.
"At least Barney Frank is better off than he was three years ago," said Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Twitter.
Tea Party freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) linked Frank's retirement to positive financial news.
"Today Rep. Barney Frank announced he will not run for re-election & the Dow is up by almost 300 points. Coincidence?" he tweeted.
Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, tweeted a simple, "bye bye Barney."
While White House contender Jon Huntsman did not directly address Frank's retirement, he tweeted out a call to repeal Frank's signature Dodd-Frank financial regulatory legislation. And Brendan Buck, House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) press secretary, retweeted analysis from The New York Times's Carl Hulse pointing out that Frank would be replaced as the ranking Democrat on the House Banking Committee by Maxine Waters, who has been the subject of recent ethics investigations.
"Departure of Rep. Frank means Maxine Waters, who has had her problems, is in line to be top Democrat on House banking," Huse wrote.
The presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, who had been highly critical of Frank's oversight of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, declined to comment.
But Frank earned praise from liberal organizations and groups thanking him for his service.
"Barney Frank has exemplified true leadership over his more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. "As the first openly gay Member of Congress, Barney defied stereotypes and kicked doors open for LGBT Americans."
Updated at 3:40 p.m.