In Farewell, Mikulski Urges Bipartisanship and a Warning

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Since the 1990s, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski has periodically organized dinners with the rest of the women in the Senate, no matter the party affiliation.

The women call these dinners their “zone of civility,” in which they talk about things ranging from their personal lives to political matters. Everything is off the record, their mantra being “no staff, no memos, and no leaks.”

During her farewell remarks Wednesday, which she called a “summing up” speech, Democrat Mikulski recalled the first time Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, reached out to work together. Both women’s staff responded negatively.

“‘Ew, she wants to work with you on something,’” Mikulski recalled her staff saying. “‘She’s a conservative from Texas and she wants to do something for women.’”

To which Mikulski responded, “How about if we listen?”

Thus began the first bipartisan, women-only dinner.

“The dinners have now stood the test of time, and I’m so proud of them,” Mikulski said. “That doesn’t go down in the law books, but it certainly, I think, should go down in the history books.”

Mikulski urged the remaining senators and House members – of both genders – to embrace bipartisanship and work together.

“We could actually work together, put our heads together, to try to come up with real solutions for real problems,” Mikulski said from behind her podium on the Senate floor. “The other is not just to judge one another because we have a party label. I’m so darn sick of that.”

After what is considered to be one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history, Mikulski offered a warning.

“The fate of this country, and maybe even the world, lies in the hands of Congress and the United States Senate,” Mikulski said.

In his own remarks to the Senate about his departing colleague, Democratic Minority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois highlighted the “big difference” the dinners have made on the Senate floor.

“Senator Mikulski is…responsible for the brain child of making sure the women in the Senate became an even more powerful force,” Durbin said. “Her bipartisan, women-senators-only dinners were a rare display of bipartisanship in an institution too often divided.”

Although they got on amicably during the dinners, Mikulski assured the women they would never become a caucus because they were not uniform in the way they voted.

Throughout her 45 years in public service, Mikulski has been hailed as the ultimate champion for women.

“I wanted to help women get elected to the Senate,” Mikulski said. “One of the great joys has been working to help empower them.”

When she was first elected to the Senate in 1986, there was one other woman serving alongside her. Now, as she prepares to leave, there are 20 senators – with one more to be sworn in in January.

“Senator Mikulski has never been interested in simply being the first,” Durbin said. “She wants to be the first of many. And she has been.”

By MAYA POTTIGER

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Letters to Editor

  1. mark dell acqua says:

    I don’t remember anytime during the Obama administration for a call for bipartisanship from the Democratic leaders in Washington. Obama’s mantra was if I can’t get my way I’ll use a “pen and a phone.” Obama and the Democratic leadership never once asked for input from Republicans regarding any major issue unless you consider “just sign this bill and we’ll figure it out later” as a form of bipartisanship [ Obamacare ]. After 8 years of failed Obama policies and a 20 trillion dollar deficit [ it was 8 trillion in 2008 ] it’s quite clear that the Democratic agenda hasn’t worked despite Obama and Congress getting almost everything they wanted, which explains the 20 trillion dollar deficit.

    I hope that the Democrats will be willing to sit down and work with a Republican led Congress and with the new Republican President but I would expect that the tone and the agenda will be different than the previous 8 years. I’m sure that the Republican controlled House and Senate will be more accommodating to the their Democratic colleagues than what the Republicans experienced in 2008-2016 from across the aisle. So far Ms. Mikulski is the only Democrat so far who has publicly expresseda desire for bipartisanship, everyone else from that side who has gone public are talking about blocking votes for Cabinet appointees and general gridlock to the Trump agenda.

    I understand certain people are angry at the outcome of the election because for months the media-driven polls told them that their candidate would be the next President of the United States, but the polls were wrong and it’s time to move on. I have no doubts about the success of Trump’s economic future for America because in the 4 weeks since Trump has
    been elected we saw Ford and Carrier scrap their plans to move to Mexico saving a total of 1600+ well paying jobs and Softbank’s commitment to spend 50 billion dollars here in America bringing thousands of new jobs. With major economic announcements like this [ and the stock market rise since 11/9/16 ] I hope all elected officials will forego their own personal agenda and be willing to endorse an economic ideology that is working and will continue work for your average American.

    • Gren Whitman says:

      Early in his administration, Mr. Obama made extensive efforts to work in a bi-partisan fashion with Republicans in Congress, to no avail.
      This is a matter of public record.
      Conversely, Senator McConnell stated that his principal goal as Majority Leader was to deny Mr. Obama a second term, a statement also on the public record.
      I’d compose a longer rebuttal, but why bother to argue with someone who’s so obviously shy of facts?

  2. mary wood says:

    What a loss Sen. Milkulski will be. Maryland and the whole country has benefitted from her years of service. Thank You.

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