Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the senior woman in the U.S. Congress, has been named to replace the senior male senator as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. The Maryland Democrat, who Politico has called the “sawed-off shotgun from Baltimore,” is a longtime prominent supporter of the Jewish community’s domestic legislative agenda and a strong backer of the US-Israel relationship.
She succeeds the late Daniel K. Inouye, who died last week at 88.
Mikulski enjoys a close working relationship with her state’s two large and influential Jewish communities, Baltimore and the Washington, D.C., suburbs. She was instrumental in creating the Department of Homeland Security fund to assist non-profit organizations to provide capital improvements for security; Jewish community institutions around the country have been major recipients of tens of millions of dollars in this assistance.
The energetic and outspoken Mikulski, 76, this year became the longest-serving woman in congressional history, with 25 years in the Senate and 10 in the House of Representatives. She will be the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee. Her House counterpart is Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, who next year will be the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, but not the chair since her party is in the minority in the House. Lowey is also the first woman and the first Jewish member of either party to hold the top post on that committee. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Kentucky) is to continue as chairman.
The way was cleared for Mikulski to take the appropriations helm when the two ahead of her in seniority on the panel decided to stay put: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Both will retain their subcommittee chairmanships on appropriations
All three senators have consistently supported economic and military assistance to Israel.