Thursday, October 08, 2009

Barney Frank: March is "Useless," Lobby Politicians at Home

Congressman Barney Frank came on the show yesterday (audio of full interview is below). We discussed several issues, from hate crimes, to ENDA to DOMA repeal, but it was his comments on the National Equality March that got the phones going, mostly with people disagreeing but with some agreeing. He believes the march doesn't do anything, that President Obama "doesn't need any pressure" and says people should stay home and lobby their politicians rather than go to DC.

On the hate crimes bill:

Barney described the attempt the other night by Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and others to remove the gay and trans inclusive hate crimes bill (the Matthew Shepard Act) from the defense authorization bill, to which it is attached as an amendment. Says that it will remain attached to the defense authorization bill and that Democrats beat back the attempt to take it off. There will be a vote on the authorization bill next week, he says, and Barney Frank believes it will be on President Obama's desk to sign shortly after that.

On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

There will be a vote in the House later this year on the trans-inclusive ENDA, and he believes it will pass. He says it will be in the Senate for a vote early next year, but that it will be difficult to get the 60 votes there needed to avert a filibuster. We will have our work cut out for us.

On the Defense of Marriage Act repeal:

Barney says that he isn't co-sponsoring Rep. Jerry Nadler's bill that would repeal DOMA -- called the the Respect for Marriage Act -- because he believes the bill, as it is written, is not worth the backlash it will cause since it won't have a chance anyway. Clarifying some of the discussions prior, he said he would endorse the bill -- and has endorsed DOMA repeal in the past -- if it did not have the provision that would give federal recognition to marriages of gays and lesbians in states where marriage is not legal for gays and lesbians (i.e., under the bill, a couple from Ohio could go to Vermont and get married, and go back home and have federal, if not state, recognition of their marriage). He says that is precisely the kind of thing that will stimulate opposition and whip up the opponents (he's said in the recent past they will charge that we're "importing" marriage). He believes that for a a bill that has zero chance of passage -- and he's not opposed to endorsing such bills, and has in the past, and understands why it's important to back bills that are not likely to pass -- it's not worth it to pick fights that will incite opposition and which we will lose.

On the National Equality March:

Barney Frank believes the march this weekend and rally on the mall are "useless" and don't put pressure on the White House. "I literally don't understand how this will do anything," he said. "People are kidding themselves. I don't want people patting themselves on the back for doing something that is useless." Besides, he says, "Barack Obama does not need pressure." He says we should model ourselves as lobbyists on "the National Rifle Association." He says people should not come to Washington and should stay home and lobby their members of Congress. "Nobody in Congress even knows they're there, he says, and he is not attending the March: He is going to California to raise money for himself and other Democrats.