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Mikulski Becomes First Woman To Chair Appropriations Committee

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Sen. Barbara Mikulski is the longest-serving woman in Senate history and now the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File
Sen. Barbara Mikulski is the longest-serving woman in Senate history and now the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski has been confirmed as the first ever female to head the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The new Congress will have more women serving than ever before, yet most of the gavels on the Hill will remain in the hands of men. But as the longest serving female in Senate history, Mikulski has slowly logged the hours to earn her one of the most coveted gavels in Congress. She says she isn't considering her confirmation as an honor, rather as a great responsibility.

"It's going to be a new day in appropriations, but we're going to follow old school values of the men who went before us," Mikulski says.

Some of the fiercest battles in this divided Capitol Hill have been over spending, which means Mikulski will now be at the center of those sometimes bitter fights going forward. From the sound of her floor speech, it seems like she s already preparing for battles with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

"We can be frugal without being heartless," Mikulski says.

The era of earmarking is over, at least for now. That could make it difficult for Mikulski to directly steer money to projects in the region. But Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) says she can make a difference without earmarking.

"First and foremost Senator Mikulski will lead this country through the right economic policies for economic growth, which will help our region," Cardin says. "Our region is very much dependent on the policies of Washington and she understands that."

Mikulski says she hopes to run the committee in an open and transparent way that follows the regular order, instead of letting party leaders craft legislation behind closed-doors.

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