December 11, 2017
Monday, March 2, 2015

Maryland Democrat, longest-serving female senator in US history, retires

US Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) rides an escalator into the subway system at the US Capitol in Washington.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving female senator in US history, today announced that she will retire at the end of her term, setting up a contest among possible successors in the heavily Democratic state of Maryland.

The top Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski, 78, told reporters in Baltimore that she would serve out her remaining two years in office. She has served in Congress for nearly 40 years.

Unlike other departing lawmakers, Mikulski said she was not disillusioned with what many see as a dysfunctional legislative body, nor is she suffering from any health issues.

She said she still relished the fight and planned to keep pushing the Democratic agenda on jobs, federal funding and other issues until her term ends in late 2016.

"For the next two years, I will be here, working the way I do, 100 percent, fighting the way I do," she said.

She said she did not want to spend the last years of her career campaigning for re-election. "Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?" she said.

In the Senate since 1987, and before that in the US House of Representatives for 10 years, the Baltimorean earned a reputation for toughness and fiery rhetoric, and for steering government money to her state.

"Senator Mikulski is more than just a legendary senator for the people of Maryland, she’s an institution in the United States Senate," President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Possible contenders to replace her could include Chris van Hollen or Dutch Ruppersberger, who are among several Maryland Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Van Hollen lauded Mikulski's tenure in a statement but did not address his own plans.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who left office in January, could be in contention. The surprise loss of his former lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown, to a Republican in the November gubernatorial election could be an issue, however.

Mikulski declined to comment on possible replacements.

One of the more liberal members of Congress, Mikulski opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and defended government spending in an era of austerity, saying in 2012 that Congress could be "frugal without being heartless."

In 2012, when NASA researchers in Baltimore discovered the fleeting glimmer of an exploding star, they named it "Supernova Mikulski," after one of their chief congressional patrons.

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Tags:  Senator  US  politics  female  Baltimore  Mikulski  

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