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Pelosi Floor Speech on Retirements of Congressmen Barney Frank and John Olver

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor to commemorate the retirement of Congressmen Barney Frank and John Olver after 16 and 11 consecutive terms in the House of Representatives respectively.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  Tonight we come to the floor to pay tribute to two people, Barney Frank and John Olver, who in many ways could not be more different.  They are the same in this respect: they have made, both of them, important marks on the Congress of the United States.  What’s so special about them is that they are so different, but in their shared values, in their effectiveness, with their knowledge of the issues and their ability to persuade our colleagues to join them in a vote, they share that talent.  Especially those values representing Massachusetts in the Congress.

“I had privilege of serving with John Olver on the Appropriations Committee.  So, I saw firsthand, and very close up, his extraordinary mastery of the facts, of the substance before us, and his political astuteness to find a way to get the job done as the Chairman and Ranking Member of an important subcommittee of Appropriations – Transportation.  

“He – better known as THUD, he’s a cardinal, a cardinal – that’s what they call them – cardinals on that committee.  So, as a cardinal he commanded a great deal of respect by our colleagues.  But that came easily to us, because as I said, we knew him well – his values and his judgment.  I want to point out one thing in particular and that is: he always had an interest in promoting, or empowering women, whether it was in the Congress, or in the country, or in the world.  Some early conversations that I’ve had with him were about human rights violations against women – against anyone – but his concern was deep and knowledgeable.  In Congress, he was supportive of advancing women into positions of power here, I can speak of that firsthand, and also for women in the country.  His wife is an academic as he still is – I guess you still are, having served in the Congress all this time, could still be considered that, an intellectual – and, again, he always knew of what he spoke and brought great passion and judgment and deliberation, deliberativeness, is that a word?  He was very deliberative in getting a job done.

“So, it was an honor to call him colleague, he brought a special contribution to the Congress.  Thank you Congressman John Olver, for your leadership, for your friendship.

”And, again, sitting there next to Barney Frank, who is a phenomenon, a force of nature, something – somebody very special to all of us – unique in terms of his incredible intellect and in some people’s opinion, great humor – his and mine for two – to serve with him was really an experience and we learn from him, not only every time he spoke, because he spoke with such wisdom and knowledge of the subject, but also we learned from him in how to get his attention, hold it, but not too long, and move on with whatever idea we had in mind.  I had the occasion, when I came to Congress for first time to call Barney and say: ‘I’m so offended by what is going on the floor, they’re saying terrible things about people there who are in need’ and it [then] went on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and we got to the end of it and he said: ‘why are you calling me?’  And I said: ‘well, I want to know – what are we going to do about that?’  And he said: ‘well, what are you going to do about it?  And next time you call me, just get right to the point right from the start.’  

“Well, that was very good advice.  So now when I speak I say: ‘Barney, subject, problem, action needed, timing.’  From then we’ve gotten along great for decades.  He really didn’t – as one of my good friends John Burton would say: ‘he just wanted to know if you enjoyed the movie, he didn’t want to know if you had butter on your popcorn.’  Just spare me the extra information that is not needed by him.

“Okay, so I first met him when I went to the – well, I first – first basked in his aura at the Banking Committee, where he was a leader on the housing subcommittee – we had that in common, representing Boston and San Francisco, two cities with a high cost of housing and knowing that we had to meet the needs of people who could not afford that high costs.  And so, that respect for people’s need to have the dignity of a home, no matter what their economic situation was, was again his commitments, as others have mentioned, to those at the lower economic scale – lower place on the economic scale.  So, housing, affordability of it, the stock of it, the housing opportunity for people with HIV and AIDS, all of those kinds of issues, as you can imagine, he had the full view of it all and a way to get the job done.

“Discrimination.  Everybody has talked about it this evening, but it’s a very transformative thing to see Barney Frank talk about discrimination, how it affected him, how it could have affected him in his life, and how he didn’t want that risk to be taken by other young people who might have had some questions about their sexuality and the rest.  I remember when we were doing the bill on the hate crimes bill – fully inclusive hate crimes bill – and he, it was a really, a very important bill that some people would have to take a political risk to vote for in their districts and Barney came to the Caucus and spoke about it.  He said: ‘I’m the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, important leaders of the financial community beat a path to my door, they want to hear what I think on subjects and tell me what they think, but I wasn’t always the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.  I was once a 16 year old boy who had questions and I identify with those boys, those little boys now, those young people now, and that’s why this is important.’  It was following the Matthew Shepherd murder and all that implied.  But for him to have the generosity of spirit to share his inner most thoughts about his own life and how that instructed him to act, it was almost a moral imperative for him to act – he had a special responsibility because of his own personal experience, to act.  And Members just responded to him, he spoke to them in a very personal way, they responded to him in a very personal way, and we passed something very, very important for our country to end discrimination.

“I remember when we passed the – the first time we passed the amendment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, oh my gosh it was so exciting, it was so exciting.  So, I went up to Barney after the vote and I said: ‘Barney, you’re making history today.’  He said: ‘yes, because we repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  I said: ‘no,’ because we did this amendment on the defense authorization bill, I said: ‘no, not because of that.  That’s history, yes.  But we’re making history because today you’re going to vote for your first defense authorization bill, which has funding for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.’  So, in any event, knowing that we had a greater good, separate issue to deal with, and people were waiting to see how Congress would act, he, of course, made history by not only voting for an amendment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but for the defense authorization bill and many, of like-minded, and thinking, and voting people, who followed Barney’s lead followed him down that path so that the bill would pass.

“But it just goes over, and over again, the consumer – protecting the tax payer, protecting the consumer, a bill, Dodd-Frank, of such magnitude and scope having such important implications for, again, protecting main street, he was masterful, not just because he was protecting the consumer, but because he understood the balance that was necessary in the legislation and that was really a mark of his leadership all along.  He always respected the view of all the stakeholders in any initiative that was put forth.

“I see by the walking around of the Dean of the Massachusetts delegation that time may be short.  So, I will reduce my remarks, but I did want to make sure people knew what an important force he was in providing affordable housing in our country, ending discrimination in every possible way I just named, to in the fight again HIV and AIDS, and protecting the consumer and the taxpayer in Dodd-Frank, and I know that any of us who was at his wedding – any of us who were at his wedding, and any of us who danced with him at his wedding, know that that was a special privilege indeed, not shared by many, but a compliment indeed.

“He will be very missed.  He’ll be missed for his intellect.  He will be – every time he spoke, we learned, from his intellect, his parliamentary prowess, he was a master of parliamentary procedure, and I think reveled in playing that role on the floor of the House.  Again, always values based, loved his district, proud of his state of Massachusetts, and a really, a national figure that will go down in history as one of the greats to have ever served in the House of Representatives.  Flamboyant – he’s given me fashion advice, which is interesting, getting fashion advice from Barney Frank, but I value that, if he took the trouble, or had the thought to make the point that I should give away a particular article of clothing because – not known for his sartorial splendor – nonetheless, if he made a point about it, he knew that there was some truth, some truth, to whatever view he was expounding.

“So, with that I’m honored to join the Massachusetts delegation to sing the praises of two great leaders, I say different in terms of style, but significant, both of them, in their contribution to our country, Congressman, otherwise known as Chairman John Olver, the cardinal from the Appropriations Committee and Chairman Barney Frank.  It’s an honor to serve with you, a privilege to call you friend.  Thank you for your service to our country.

“With that I yield back to the gentleman.”