Frank, Bielat Clash Over Foreclosure Crisis

By Sarah Birnbaum

Oct. 15, 2010

BOSTON -- Rep. Barney Frank is in relatively unfamiliar territory. The almost-30-year Democratic incumbent faces one of his most serious challenges to re-election this year from 35-year-old GOP upstart Sean Bielat.

The two faced off Thursday night in a debate on WGBH's Greater Boston. Bielat took advantage of renewed national attention on the collapse of the country's housing market and accused Frank of being too slow to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants whose 2008 collapse prompted the federal government to spend billions of dollars in taxpayer money to bail them out.

In the debate, Frank said that he may have missed some warning signs early on, but he acted decisively once the Democrats took over Congress and he became the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. "Beginning in 2007, when I took over the chairmanship, we regulated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and put them into conservatorship, we went after credit card abuses, we went after executive compensation and we began the process of outlawing predatory mortgages," Frank said.

But Bielat said that in 2005, Frank voted against a measure to overhaul the regulatory oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "Look you voted against that bill.  In 2004, you coauthored a letter with Nancy Pelosi to the Bush administration calling for less restrictions on Fannie and Freddie. The record is clear," Bielat said.

Frank said that he supported tougher restrictions, but in the end, he voted against the bill because it didn’t include funding for affordable housing.  Moreover, he argued that the Republicans were to blame for the bill’s defeat – not him.
Frank:  What Mr. Bielat doesn’t tell you is that the bill was introduced when the Republicans controlled the Congress.  It passed the House. So I can hardly be blamed.

Bielat: Even though you voted against it?

Frank: Yes, I can’t be blamed. It passed the house.

Bielat: Even though you voted against it?

Frank:  I explained.  I voted against it because it weakened an unrelated provision but you can’t blame me for stopping something when I was in the minority.

Bielat:  But you voted against it, so I think I can.

Barney Frank is one of the most prominent Democrats in the Congress.  His advocacy for gay rights, his involvement in the financial bailout and his love of scathing one-liners have made him a favorite target of conservatives nationwide. 

The Tea Party has said that defeating him is one of their top priorities.  Although Bielat isn’t a Tea Party member, the group is lending him financial and advertising support. 

Still, Frank is very popular in the Democratic-leaning 4th district, which stretches from Newton to New Bedford.  And despite Tea Party involvement and Bielat’s blistering criticisms, it will be difficult for Republicans to pick up his seat on November 2nd.

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