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FCW : April 15, 2014
People 22 April 15, 2014 FCW.COM in the Senate this year: omnibus and child care. And she delivered both." Those two measures were approved at a time when many critics, including some of Mikulski s col- leagues, contend that Congress has become dysfunctional. Most intriguingly perhaps, she has distanced herself from President Barack Obama. When he led his s- cal 2015 budget, Mikulski responded that same day with a de nitive rejec- tion of his appeal for additional spend- ing coupled with a tax hike. "We have a budget agreement for fiscal year 2015, and the Senate Appropriations Committee will adhere to the spend- ing caps in that deal," Mikulski said at the time. That statement honored her bipartisan agreement with Rogers and left no doubt that the president s plan was dead on arrival. "Although I agree with many of the concepts in the president s bud- get proposal, we intend to stick with the spending levels spelled out by the bipartisan budget deal approved last December," she said later. Mikulski s reaction showed her "responsibility to the institution," Lilly said. "People who stick to ideological purity make for ineffective chairmen. She recognizes that she is not a one- woman band.... The president s budget is not closely connected to what will happen in Congress this year on spend- ing." And with Republicans controlling the House, Lilly said, "I don t think that the White House expected that Con- gress would respond." Mikulski is especially focused on restoring the workmanship and credibility of her commit- tee, on which she has served throughout her Senate career. Not coincidentally, her enhanced leadership role and her embrace of the "regular order" for appropriations serve the interests of a key bloc of her Maryland constituents. Several vast federal facilities operate across Mikulski s home state. In addition to NIH, they include the Social Security Administration in Baltimore, Census Bureau in Suitland, National Security Agency at Fort Meade and vari- ous other military bases. Protecting home-state interests --- with sometimes questionable spending on projects from West Virginia to Alaska and Hawaii --- is a cherished tra- dition for senior Appropriations Committee members on both sides of the aisle. Her advocacy for these home-state agencies often is more than a friendly pat on the back. In particular, Mikulski has frequently defended the beleaguered of cials and workers at NSA from what she has termed the "demonization" of their top-secret operations by many members of Congress --- including several Senate Democrats. And she has a repu- tation for occasionally showing a harder edge in dealing with such critics. Even with her full schedule at Appropriations, she makes a point of attending most meetings of the Senate Select Com- mittee on Intelligence, where she is a senior member. Nor has she been shy about seek- ing to expand the federal presence in Maryland. Working with Demo- cratic Gov. Martin O Malley, she has urged relocation to nearby Prince George s County of the headquar- ters of the FBI, whose of cials have said their downtown Washington facility has become outdated. Although that decision technically would be made by the General Ser- vices Administration, the rm voice of the Senate Appropriations chair- woman would be hard to ignore. Mikulski has said that Majority Leader Reid supports her plan to move the 12 annual appropriations bills to the Senate oor this year. But that won t be easy, especially in an election year when partisan control of the Senate is at stake. As chairs of the subcommittees that handle the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill, Mikulski and her House counterpart, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), last year failed to get oor debate on the bill in either chamber. Party leaders concluded at the time that they faced too many hot-button issues that might bog down that bill, rang- ing from guns and immigration to terrorist detainees and funding for NASA (also based in Maryland). Even with its many challenges, the Appropriations Com- mittee has changed signi cantly since 1987, when Mikulski became its only woman member and described the panel as a "fraternity." Now it includes ve Democratic and two Republican women, including several who hold other top Senate committee posts. Notably, Budget Committee Chair- woman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) worked closely with Mikul- ski on setting the budget framework for the subsequent spending deal. With her committee s authority as keeper of the nation s purse strings for discretionary federal spending, Mikulski faces the continuing challenge of cutting through the Sen- ate s proclivity to delay and deadlock. ■ "We got the child care bill done by focusing on where we can nd common ground, where can we nd that sensible center and how can we move things for ward on a bipartisan basis. I look forward to producing appropriations bills in the same spirit."
March 30, 2014
April 30, 2014