Former congressman Barney Frank says the tea party's growing influence in Washington triggered the government dysfunction that has crippled Capitol Hill.
Frank told Ed Berliner, host of Newsmax TV's
"The Hard Line," that the tea party's inability to compromise has crushed the spirit of cooperation in the House and Senate that was a given less than a decade ago.
"I was in the Congress in 2008 when [President] George Bush sent his chief economic advisers, the secretary of the treasury, the chairman of the Fed, to a Democratic majority and said, 'we have terrible trouble and we have to do some extraordinary things that will be unpopular to keep the economy going,'" Frank said Monday.
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"We did it. Sen. [Christopher] Dodd and I, with the support of Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Majority Leader [Harry] Reid, we did that. George Bush got a great degree of cooperation from the Democrats in Congress.
"Frankly, bipartisanship broke down when Barack Obama took office and [Sen.] Mitch McConnell announced that his number one goal was to defeat him for re-election and simultaneously … you had the [influence] of the tea party Republicans."
Frank, who represented Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013 and was considered one of the nation's most liberal lawmakers, said he worked very closely with Republicans "for a very long time … and then came the tea party."
"These breakdowns … are largely as a result of a rise in control of the Republican Party [by] a group that does not want government to function. They honestly believe government does more harm than good," Frank said.
"In fact, if you look at it on the Democratic side, I don't think you see those divisions, certainly not within the Congress. You're seeing them more on the Republicans' side between the more traditional conservative Republicans and the tea party group."
He called tea party activists "dangerous in the sense, not that they mean ill, but that their philosophy undervalues our coming together."
Frank is author of "Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage,"
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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