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Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, first of all, I wish to say what a pleasure it is to welcome Senator Sarbanes back. I had the pleasure of sitting beside him on the Foreign Relations Committee for 24 years. We miss his judgment and wisdom. We could use it these days.

I wish to welcome Governor O'Malley.

I can't think of a time, when people have stood up to laud a fellow Senator, that a Governor of their State is sitting and listening. All of the comments to this moment and beyond will undoubtedly echo the remarkable affection that everybody has for Barbara Mikulski and particularly the high regard in which she is held.

This is a very special celebration for the longest serving woman in the history of the Congress, 12,862 days today and counting. In that time--I recall when I first came here there was one woman serving, and that was Senator Nancy Kassebaum--it is fair to say Barbara Mikulski has been one of the pivotal forces in creating and assembling what I would call a true ``band of sisters''--the women with whom she has served in the Senate, each of whom makes extraordinary contributions to this institution.

We have heard from other colleagues that her career is filled with milestones, and it is. She is the first Democratic woman to serve in both Houses of Congress. She is the first Democratic woman elected to Senate leadership. She is the first woman elected to statewide office in Maryland. These are just a few.

When Barbara came to the Senate in 1986 after 10 years in the House of Representatives, women were still, as she describes it--these are her words--``a bit of a novelty'' in the Senate. Indeed, then, it was only Barbara and Senator Nancy Kassebaum. But now Barbara says:

We're not viewed as novelties. We're not viewed as celebrities. We're viewed as U.S. Senators.

One of the reasons for that is that Barbara Mikulski has demonstrated a seriousness of purpose, an ability to legislate, and an ability to make friends and bring people together that has defined her role as the dean of the women in the Senate.

Some of her women colleagues in the Senate call her Dean. Others call her Coach Barb. But no matter what they call her, she has brought them together in this bipartisan sisterhood, as we just heard from the Senator from Texas. She holds workshops and serves as a mentor to all newcomers and organizes regular monthly dinners. They don't always agree on everything, but the dinners are what some of them have called a ``zone of civility,'' which is something the Senate could use a little more of these days. Again, it is Barbara Mikulski's example that helps point us in that direction.

But for all of her firsts, I would say to my colleagues that Barbara Mikulski's career has never been about gender as much as it has been about agenda. I have had the privilege of working with her enough on different issues of being what she calls one of her Galahads. I have seen her laser focus on what is right, on her conscience, on her gut, on her sense of what the people of Maryland want, and what she thinks is her duty as a Senator. That is why I wanted her on the Speaker's platform in 2004 in Boston at the convention, and she delivered just the right message in her forceful and commanding way. She stood up there and declared:

When women seek power, we don't seek it for ourselves; we seek it to make a difference in the lives of other people.

There is no arguing, as we heard from a number of colleagues, about what an extraordinary difference Barbara Mikulski has made in the lives of other people, not just Marylanders but all Americans. She has been an extraordinary advocate for the Goddard Space Center, for the Wallops Flight Facility, and for Johns Hopkins Applied Science Lab in Maryland, as well as the Port of Baltimore and Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

For decades, she proudly worked beside my colleague of 26 years Ted Kennedy. She loved Ted Kennedy and Ted Kennedy loved her. Together, on the Health Committee, they worked to make universal health care a reality. Her role when Senator Kennedy was sick was an extraordinary role of picking up that baton and helping to bring it across the finish line.

Along the way she became a leader on women's health, fighting for equality in health research and making sure women get the quality of care they deserve. She was one of the chief sponsors of Medicaid financing of mammograms and Pap smears.

Personally, I will never forget how Barbara reacted when the National Institutes of Health said it would not include women in trials of aspirin as a preventive for heart attacks because ``their hormones present too many biological variables.'' Barbara fired back: ``My hormones rage because of comments like that.''

Her proudest accomplishment, she says, is the Spousal Anti-Impoverishment Act, which helps to keep seniors from going bankrupt while paying for a spouse's nursing home care. But throughout her career, Barbara Mikulski has fought to strengthen the safety net for children, for seniors, and for anyone who needed somebody to stand for them or push open a door for them.

That fight started in east Baltimore where her Polish immigrant grandparents ran a bakery and her father a grocery store. She says she often watched her father open the doors to his grocery store for local steelworkers so they could buy their lunches before the morning shift. She got it in her head at that time that she would rather be opening doors for others on the inside than knocking on doors from the outside.

So no surprise, after college she got a job as a social worker helping at-risk children and educating seniors about Medicare. She got involved in politics by organizing community groups to stop a highway from going through the Highlandtown neighborhood where she grew up. Let me tell my colleagues, nobody had ever seen anything like her. At one rally, she jumped up on a table and cried:

The British couldn't take Fells Point, the termites couldn't take Fells Point, and goddamn if we'll let the State Roads Commission take Fells Point.

As they say on ESPN, the crowd went nuts, and the roads commission never knew what hit them. And I assure my colleagues, that was a nonprofane use of our Lord's name.

Again, no surprise, that led to her election to the Baltimore City Council. I think that explains a lot about just how good a politician she is--how well she knows the street. I think every one of her colleagues, all of us, are in awe of Barbara's ability to focus on the street emotion, on the simplicity of an argument, and to be able to sum it up in a razor-like comment that just cuts to the quick and makes the rest of us who search around for the words seem pretty inept in the process. Whether it is at Camden Yards, Fells Point, the Eastern Shore, the Washington suburbs, or up along the Mason Dixon Line, Barbara has her finger on the political pulse of Marylanders. She understands their concerns, shares their aspirations, and sums up their hopes and their dreams in a few short sentences that nobody else can parallel.

If anyone expected Barbara Mikulski to accept being just a novelty or a celebrity in Congress, they obviously had no understanding of her deep roots as an immigrant, being an American, and the values she learned about hard work in her family.

If anyone expects her to slow down just because she is now the longest serving woman in the history of Congress, they don't know Barbara Mikulski. A couple of years ago, Barbara and I talked--I think it was at one of our retreats--about how similar Maryland and Massachusetts are in certain ways, especially their rural and fishing histories which we actually both have. She told me she wasn't much of a fisherman, but she liked to hunt. The only problem she cited was the recoil of the rifle given that she stands 4 feet 11 inches tall.

Well, it is clear from the record, clear from the comments of all of her colleagues, and clear from this extraordinary longest serving record in the Congress and all that she has accomplished that she stands as one of the tallest Senators and packs a punch way beyond her 4 feet 11 inches.

We are proud to have her as a colleague, and we are in awe of her ability to galvanize action, which is what this institution should be all about.


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