Senator and Social Worker Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has been named Chair of the Committee on Appropriations. She follows after Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) who died in December. Senator Mikulski will be the first woman to hold this powerful position, which reflects the growing representation of women on Capitol Hill. The Senate Committee on Appropriations is a standing committee which has jurisdiction over all discretionary spending legislation in the Senate. It is one of the most powerful committees in the Senate and allocates federal funds to the numerous government agencies, departments, and organizations on an annual basis.
With a strong social work and community organization background, Senator Mikulski has been known to push for spending on social programs and expanded federal research. Senator Mikulski was first elected to the Senate in 1986 after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is the first Democratic woman Senator to be elected in her own right. On March 17, 2012, she became the longest serving woman in the history of the United States Congress. She is also known as the Dean of Women—serving as a mentor to other women Senators when they first take office. Senator Mikulski notes that her “experiences as a social worker and activist provided valuable lessons that she draws on as a United States Senator. She believes her constituents have a right to know, a right to be heard and a right to be represented. She listens to her constituents and makes the personal, political.”