Farewell, Senator Barb
When I left San Francisco back in late 2010 for the wild unknown of the Washington DC suburbs, I never imagined that just a few months later I'd be on Capitol Hill sitting quietly in Maryland Senator Ben Cardin's office with a group of CPAs discussing the tax topics impacting CPAs and their clients that year. But that's exactly what happened and I have to say, it's been pretty awesome.
As we learned recently, the longest-serving female in Congress -- who I first met my first 6 months in Washington, her tiny feet swinging from the bottom of her too-tall chair in Senator Cardin's office -- announced she will be retiring and I have to say, although I don't necessarily agree with her on many issues, I'll miss her.
The Washington Post writes:
Let's talk about that "good mouth," shall we? I may get in trouble for this, but it deserves to be said as it reflects the spirit that burned bright in Maryland's historic lawmaker.SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI of Maryland — an impassioned, imperious, effective and unapologetically authentic lawmaker who has held fast to her blue-collar roots through 38 years in Congress — announced Monday that she will retire next year after five terms in the Senate. She did so having achieved the goal she set for herself in 1987, when she ascended to the upper chamber from the House of Representatives, “to use the good mind, the good mouth, the good heart that God gave me.”A grocer’s daughter from a Polish neighborhood of Baltimore, Ms. Mikulski was regarded as an almost cartoonish anomaly when she was elected to the Senate, the first Democratic woman to have done so in her own right, without benefit of a politically more famous husband or father. Brash, gruff, unpolished and, at 4 feet 11 inches, so short she often stood on a box when speaking at a lectern, she seemed the antithesis of the patrician lions of the Senate.
One year, I believe ahead of the most recent presidential campaign, Congress was gripped by the most partisan cockblocking we've seen in a long time. It went beyond simple crapping-all-over of the other side's proposed bills, it was like West Side Story or, worse, an episode of HBO's Oz with each side forming tight factions that were not to be disrespected.
We waited for both Senators Cardin and Mikulski to meet us that unseasonably warm spring day in Washington, and watched Senator Mikulski, live on the Senate floor, broadcasting back into her office through a small mounted TV tuned to C-SPAN. She was noticeably heated up, passionate, and -- frankly -- pissed off. Great, we were going to get the brunt of it when she returned to her office to hear my CPA companions tell her about tax reform and whatever else the CPAs were there to talk about that particular day.
When she returned from the floor, her cheeks were flushed and she was wound up tight. The times I met her before, she was jovial, animated, and happy to see the group. But now, she was aggravated, frustrated, and generally over it all.
"Republicans are assholes," she may have said in the hallway. Maybe she used a more polite word, as a lady does, but she went on to say how even speaking to someone across the aisle at that point would bring the ire of both sides. That's how things were that year, and probably why not much got done. It was like Mean Girls but with grown ass adults on Capitol Hill and Senator Barb had fucking had it.
Surely, I'm not the only one who may recall Senator Mikulski throwing epic shade across the aisle during that tumultuous, unproductive time:
For her part, Ms. Mikulski was unabashed. “I do get emotional,” she said last year, venting her wrath at Republicans who blocked legislation to rein in income disparity between men and women who do the same work. “I get angry, I get outraged, I get volcanic.”
I will fondly remember the kind, receptive, informed Senator Barb, who never came off as an empty suit -- perhaps because there wasn't an empty suit in all of Washington that could fit her small frame -- and could light up the room even when being subjected to tax talk from a bunch of CPAs. A warm, intelligent lawmaker, of the caliber we likely won't see in Washington again any time soon.
Though I left Maryland long ago for Virginia (which was a better fit, anyway, Don't Tread on Me license plates notwithstanding), I still return as often as I can and call that crazy blue state the closest thing I have to home. And it saddens me to think this spring may be my last chance to shake her hand and watch her swing her feet off the end of her chair. Assuming I'm invited back now that I've revealed her secret potty mouth, that is.
As Rep. Chris van Hollen (D-Md.) put it, “When Barbara Mikulski is with you, the Force is with you.”
Maryland, and Congress in general, needs that force. And it's sad to think what will happen without it.