Rep. Frank: Romney 'mindless' to suggest eliminating HUD

Mitt Romney's suggestion to scrap the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) is an irrational proposition that would lead to a spike in national poverty and homelessness, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) charged this week.

Romney, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, hinted last month that he would eliminate HUD, among other federal agencies, if he were to win the White House in November.

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But Frank, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over HUD programs, warned Wednesday that such a move would cause "a significant increase in poverty, a massive increase in homelessness and a deterioration of cities."

"It's not a rational policy," Frank said. "It's mindlessness."

Appearing at a closed-door fundraiser last month in Florida, Romney, whose father headed HUD for four years under former President Nixon, suggested the agency might not survive if he becomes president.

"I'm going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them – some eliminate – but I'm probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go," Romney said, according to reporters who overheard the private discussion.

"Things like Housing and Urban Development, which my dad was head of, that might not be around later," he added. "But I'm not going to actually go through these one by one. What I can tell you is, we've got far too many bureaucrats. I will send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states."

Romney has come under fire throughout the campaign for seeming to champion the concerns of wealthy Americans at the expense of lower-income folks – an image he didn't help to undo when he told CNN in February that, "I’m not concerned about the very poor."

Frank said Wednesday that the idea of eliminating HUD – which is largely charged with promoting affordable housing for low-income people – fits that mold.

"Low-income people are just not on his radar screen," Frank said.

Frank argued that Romney's remarks on HUD are a symptom of a Republican Party that's shifted to the right in recent years, as Tea Party activists and other right-wing groups have upped the pressure on GOP policymakers to remain pure to the conservative ideal of smaller government. Frank noted that the late Jack Kemp – the former New York congressman, Republican vice presidential candidate and a darling of conservatives – served as HUD secretary under former President H.W. Bush.

"Jack Kemp!" Frank said. "I mean, this is how far they've gone."