Feisty Mikul­ski beloved by col­leagues

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DONNA CAS­SATA

One by one, Repub­li­cans and Democrats rec­og­nized a sin­gu­lar achieve­ment by a sin­gu­lar woman — Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski, now the long­est-serv­ing fe­male mem­ber of Congress.

The Mary­land Demo­crat reached that mile­stone this past Satur­day. So on her 12,892 day in Congress Wed­nes­day, sen­a­tors stood on the floor to pay trib­ute to the 75-year-old from Bal­ti­more with a se­ries of speeches about her tenac­ity, feisti­ness, ded­i­ca­tion and even the time she won over a Texas crowd at a steer auc­tion.

“She gave voice to the voice­less, power to the pow­er­less,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, Maine Re­pub­li­can.

“I love Bar­bara Mikul­ski. I love her be­cause she calls me Franken,” said Sen. Al Franken, Min­nesota Demo­crat, who called her a “just a force, a force of na­ture.”

Ms. Mikul­ski was elected to the House in 1976 and won her Se­nate seat in 1986. She moved into the his­tory books by sur­pass­ing for­mer Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers, a Mas­sachusetts Re­pub­li­can who was the long­est serv­ing-mem­ber of the House. When Ms. Mikul­ski ar­rived in Washington, there were 19 women in Congress. To­day, there are 74 women in the House and 17 in the Se­nate.

The 4- foot-11 for­mer so­cial worker has looked out for her state as a mem­ber of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee and has been a tough ad­vo­cate for NASA and space pro­grams. She has fa­vored abor­tion rights and pushed for health care cov­er­age.

In 2000, she was part of the book “Nine and Count­ing,” as the women of the Se­nate wrote about their ob­sta­cles and ex­pe­ri­ences in pol­i­tics. The pro­ceeds from the book went to the Girl Scouts of Amer­ica.

In the mid­dle of the speeches, Ms. Mikul­ski ac­knowl­edged the praise with a mix of hu­mor, self-dep­re­ca­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for those who helped her. She re­called her fa­ther, who ran a gro­cery store, and the nuns who taught her.

“I even thought about be­ing a Catholic nun, but that vow of obe­di­ence kind of slowed me down a lit­tle bit,” Ms. Mikul­ski said.

With her fam­ily, for­mer Sen. Paul Sar­banes and Mary­land Gov. Martin O’mal­ley lis­ten­ing in the Se­nate cham­ber, Ms. Mikul­ski re­flected on her achieve­ment.

“I didn’t start out want­ing to be an his­toric fig­ure. . . . For me, it’s not how long I serve. It’s not about his­tory. . . . The fact is that when I wanted to grow up, I wanted to be of ser­vice,” she said.

Texas Sen. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son re­called how Ms. Mikul­ski thrilled the Texas crowd dur­ing a joint trip to the steer auc­tion.

“She put on her cow­boy hat and she rode in the grand en­try on a buck­board [wagon], and she be­came an hon­orary Texan in our hearts,” Ms. Hutchi­son said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski, 75, a Mary­land Demo­crat, set a record on Satur­day by be­com­ing the longest­serv­ing fe­male mem­ber of Congress.

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