(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the 74-year old Maryland Democrat standing under five-feet tall, Wednesday became the longest-serving woman senator in United States history.
“When I walked down that aisle, I walked into the history books. I never set out to do that,” she said in a brief speech on the Senate floor.
“But for me,” she said, “it’s not how long I serve – it’s how well I serve.”
“The history of women in the Senate is short. I might add, it’s four-foot-11 short,” she joked.
Mikulski said her focus is not on breaking records that deal with longevity, but rather ones that deal with key national issues.
“Let’s break that high record of unemployment,” she said. “Let’s break that record of low graduation rates in our high schools. Let’s break that record of the longest war in American history and bring our troops home as safely as we can.”
Mikulski’s colleagues -- such as her fellow Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell, and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe --Wednesday paid tribute to her milestone.
“Thank you. Sen. Mikulski, for living the American dream and making that dream a reality for so many Americans,” Cardin said.
“She has had a path-breaking career and that’s an understatement,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Today’s is just another in a long line of “firsts” for Mikulski, who is starting her fifth term in the Senate since coming to the chamber 24 years ago. She was the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right, the first Democratic woman to serve in both houses of Congress, the first Democratic woman senator elected to a leadership post, the first woman elected to statewide office in Maryland – and the list goes on.
Lest anyone think that Mikulski’s tenure on Capitol Hill has merely been about milestones, it has also been one of historic legislative accomplishments. She fought hard for passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill to guarantee equal payment for women. And she championed Rosa’s Law, a citizen advocacy measure that banned the use of the term “mentally retarded.”
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