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Public Statements

Jumpstart Our Business STARTUPS Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, I rise today in tribute to Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who has just become the longest serving woman in Congress, and to applaud the pioneering role that she has played in the evolution of the Senate.

Things have certainly changed since 1986, when Senator Mikulski was elected to the Senate. When Senator Mikulski joined the Senate as the first Democratic woman elected in her right as opposed to filling the term of a spouse, the Senate looked very different. There was only one other woman senator, Nancy Kassebaum, a Republican from Kansas. The Senate had just begun to televise their proceedings the year she was elected. And, obviously, there were no women in leadership positions in the Senate.

Senator Mikulski set out to change all that. She became the first woman in the Democratic leadership. She became the first woman to serve on the Appropriations Committee. And then she became the first woman to chair the Senate CJS Appropriations subcommittee.

And things certainly have changed. Now, in the 112th Congress, there are 17 women, both Republican and Democrat, in the Senate overall. There are seven women on the Appropriations Committee alone. Five women chair Senate committees. Women have had significant roles in both the Democratic and Republican Senate leadership.

While all of these changes were clearly not solely a function of Senator Mikulski's pioneering leadership, she blazed a trail as bright and as wide as anyone could possibly hope for. With her impassioned speeches, her plain spoken delivery, and her commitment to fairness and justice, Senator Mikulski could not be ignored or pigeonholed. She stood up for what she believed in, and she would not allow her voice to be silenced.

Senator Mikulski cared deeply about health care issues, and women's health in particular. When she learned that many Federally-funded research protocols did not include women, she led the fight to insure that would never happen again. She established the Office of Women's Health at NIH to ensure women would always have a voice in critical health issues.

One of her proudest accomplishments was working to pass the spousal impoverishment law, which changed the rules that forced elderly couples to spend all their assets and give up their home before the Government would help one member of the couple pay for a nursing home.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Senator Mikulski's efforts on behalf of her beloved State of Maryland. From the crabbers of the Chesapeake Bay to the steelworkers at Sparrows Point to the scientists at Goddard to all the other families all across the State, no one has worked harder to give them a voice on Capitol Hill than Barbara Mikulski. On this historic day, I wish her the best, and I know that as long as she is a United States Senator, she will never stop fighting for what she believes is right.

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