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Tribute To Senator Barbara Mikulski

Sen. Ron Wyden

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Mr. President, I have been able to listen a bit to the wonderful tributes over the last few hours to Senator Mikulski. We all know of her wonderful service all these years, the record that is being shattered--a very special record.

As I listened to some of the comments, I was struck that tributes usually come in the Senate when one of our colleagues is leaving office or sometimes one of our colleagues passes away. And what I am struck by this afternoon is how glad I am and colleagues on both sides of the aisle are that Senator Mikulski is very much alive, and next week and next month and in the years ahead she is going to continue to bring this kind of wellspring of conscience and energy and passion and expertise to the Senate.

I am going to have more to say in terms of a lengthier speech, but she and I have had a special relationship for almost three decades. We served together in the other body on the Energy and Commerce Committee. We would often show up at meetings together, and this is still a tradition that continues now because we both have the honor of serving on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Senator Mikulski and I would walk in together, and she would smile and say: Now the long and short of it are arriving. And I guess that is true in a literal sense, but while Senator Mikulski may be modest in stature, she has one very large record on behalf of the public interest, and I am especially grateful for all she has done for people without power and people without clout.

When we think about what has so angered the American people--and I have heard the Senator from Colorado, the Presiding Officer, talk about this--it is that people feel so disconnected from government; that you can have a community meeting in Oregon or Colorado or Maryland or some other part of the country, and somehow there is this sense what goes on in Washington really has nothing to do with people in their home community.

Senator Mikulski doesn't practice public service that way. Senator Mikulski has always felt, since the days when she was a community organizer and they were dealing with those community problems and where are you going to locate a freeway or something of that nature, that public service and community service were always about being connected to people. She understood right away what people may say at a townhall meeting now in Colorado or Oregon about government being removed from their lives, and for decades she has practiced a very different kind of public service. She did it when she was a community organizer, she did it in the House of Representatives, and she continues to do it today.

Very often when we take the subway to a vote and I ask her what she has done over the weekend, she will talk about families. She knows I was codirector of the Gray Panthers for many years before I was elected to Congress, so we will talk about aging issues. And everybody knows what she has done in the aging field and her interest in fighting Alzheimer's. So it always comes back to people, and that connection she brings to public service that is so lacking from what Americans see is the big problem in government today, that much of what goes on here is simply disconnected from their lives.

What I see in Barbara Mikulski is the real measure of what we want in a public servant. We want someone who is conscientious, we want someone who is smart, we want someone who has good values and someone who always tries to be a coalition builder.

I have watched Senator Mikulski in lots of instances. We had one just recently where Senator Mikulski was trying to find a balance on a difficult and contentious issue between industry and the environment, and I watched how she was trying to listen to both sides. Maryland has some communities where they have older plants, and if she can't take steps to protect those plants and have the workers keep their jobs, a lot of people are going to hurt, and Senator Mikulski always tries to keep that from happening. She has also said clean air and the environmental laws are important. And that last quality of trying to bring people together, which I have heard the Senator from Colorado talk about, is what Senator Mikulski's public service career has been all about.

So tonight and through the day we have heard colleagues pay tribute. I made mention of the fact that so often I hear these tributes when a colleague is leaving the Senate. I would like to close these brief remarks by saying that I am especially grateful that the cause of good government is enhanced by the fact that Senator Mikulski is very much alive. This is not a tribute to someone who is leaving office, this is a tribute to someone who is going to be here next week, next month, and the years ahead, continuing to shatter those records as she advocates for people who don't have big lobbies, who don't have lots of political clout and can't go out and hire PR firms and well-paid and well-tailored advocates to walk the halls of the Senate. She is there for those people who don't have a voice. She has been there for those people ever since she was a community organizer in those early days in Baltimore.

When I think about trying to give public service a good name, I think about Barbara Mikulski--our wonderful friend, Senator Barbara Mikulski, the senior Senator from the State of Maryland. We thank her for giving public service a good name. We thank her for taking on the battles and the fights she has in the past. And we are all especially grateful that at the end of this tribute she will be back at her post a few seats from me, standing for those values and standing for those causes that are so important to the well-being of this country.

Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu

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Madam President, I ask unanimous consent the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu

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Madam President, I may be the last speaker of the day, but I did not want to leave the Chamber or the building without taking a moment to come to the floor, as so many of our colleagues did today, to honor one of our own, one of our favorites. Not only is she a favorite to us but I am certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that she is one of the favorite Senators ever to represent the State of Maryland. She is respected, she is beloved, and she is admired by millions of her constituents from Maryland, but I can promise you that is true of constituents in Louisiana, potentially in your home State, Madam President, and throughout the world.

Last Saturday our friend and colleague Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the longest serving woman in the history of the Congress. I can only say that we have come a long way since the first woman was appointed, as I recall back in the 1920s. She was only allowed to serve 1 day and was not going to be given a paycheck but insisted that she be paid for her service. I think she might have been paid $1 for her service.

Of course, the record of that 1 day on the floor speaks for itself. We have come a long way since that day. But Barbara Mikulski was first elected to the House in 1976, and then to the Senate 10 years later. When she first entered this Chamber, there was only one other woman here, her friend and her good, strong, supportive colleague, Nancy Kassebaum, a Republican from Kansas. So a Democrat from Maryland and a Republican from Kansas, but the two of them were quite a team and Barbara Mikulski speaks fondly of her days with Senator Nancy Kassebaum. Today there are 17 of us and proudly we continue that tradition of respect and bipartisanship set in large measure by two of the women we greatly admire.

The late Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts, who served from 1925 to 1960, had previously held the record for the longest serving woman in Congress. Breaking this record is only one of the many milestones Senator Mikulski has accomplished during her tenure in the Senate. But, as she would so quickly say, it is not how long you serve but how well you serve. It is not the length of your service, as she said to us so many times, but the quality of your service. We could not have a better role model--in terms of effectiveness, strength, tenacity, courage, boldness--than in our own Senator Barbara Mikulski.

She was the first female Democrat, the first in the history of our country, to serve in both Chambers of Congress, the first female Democrat to be elected to the Senate without succeeding a husband or a father, and the first female to chair an Appropriations Committee.

I serve on the Appropriations Committee. It is one of the most powerful committees in our Congress. When I think about the fact that it took over 225 years for a woman to get the gavel on just one of the 14 subcommittees--that number has changed over the decades--but if you think about it, from the beginning of our country's history, those early days through the expansion out West, through the Civil War, post-Civil War history, the early part of the 1900s, World War I, World War II--never did a woman hold a gavel to write one budget for one committee in the entire country, until Barbara Mikulski received one of those gavels.

I can tell you from personal experience serving with her on that committee, our country is a better place--in health, in welfare, our space program, our science and technology programs--because Barbara Mikulski has used that gavel not to promote herself but to promote the people she serves and the principles for which she fights.

She is well respected for her wisdom, for her tenacity and her strength. She is respected by female and male peers who serve with her. As most of my female colleagues in the Senate have also experienced, Senator Mikulski took me under her wing when I was first sworn in as a Senator. She extended her hand to help me in every way possible, to help me find my footing here as a Senator and to navigate through the intricacies of the Senate process. She was never too busy to hold out a helping hand or for a pat on the shoulder. She was always willing to give that extra advice and, I might say, was always willing to suggest that you might have made a mistake--try it a little different way the next time--not one to mince words, but as a good Big Sister would take us under her wing and help us out as any good Big Sister would do.

In addition to that wonderful, helpful, and thoughtful gesture that she shared with me and so many, she has been an inspiration to many women, particularly young women who have looked up to her, trying to follow in her footsteps.

I can only say that this Senate and this Congress--the people of Maryland, the people of our country and women throughout the world--have been blessed by her leadership.

What has touched me the most about watching her is the fearlessness in which she serves. She does not back down. She knows herself, she is comfortable in her own skin, and she doesn't try to be someone she is not. She is very proud of her Polish-American background, always proud to talk about the bakery her parents owned, her immigrant background, and always so willing to share from her heart as well as her mind some of what she believes.

She has been nothing but an inspiration to me and to many. I am so glad I could come to the floor today, I am so glad. I think almost every one of our colleagues has made it to the floor to honor her. When God made Barbara Mikulski, he threw away the mold. I don't think there will ever be one like her. There most certainly isn't anyone in politics today who is like her. That is good, to be unique in that way. She will be long remembered. I hope she will serve here for many wonderful years to come.

I yield the floor.

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