WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) spoke on the Senate floor after being ratified by her Democratic colleagues as the Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee on December 20, 2012. She is the Committee's first woman chair, succeeding Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), who sadly passed away on Monday, December 17, 2012.
The Senate Appropriations Committee's role is defined by the U.S. Constitution, which requires "appropriations made by law" prior to the expenditure of any money from the Federal treasury. The Committee writes the legislation that allocates federal funds to the numerous government agencies, departments and organizations on an annual basis.
Senator Mikulski's full remarks, as delivered, follow:
"The Democratic Caucus has just ratified me as the Chair of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee.
"I take to the floor today to announce that with great humility. I am following in the footsteps of Senator Danny Inouye, who was indeed a giant among men, a war hero and an advocate for social justice, national security and a compassionate government.
"As I assume this Chairmanship, I look forward to working with each and every member of the United States Senate, both within my own Caucus and across the aisle, and to having a committee that functions on a bipartisan basis.
"The Appropriations Committee is a Constitutionally mandated committee. It is governed by the Constitution of the United States, by the laws of the land and by the rules of the United States Senate. And under the Constitution, the Founding Fathers said that every year there should be a review of the annual federal expenditures.
"And that's what our Committee will do. We will bring forward legislation that will show the expenditures of the United States government as we propose them to be ratified by the full Senate. We will do it all on a bipartisan basis.
"One of the first calls I made when I knew that this honor would come to me, was to reach across the aisle to Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, my good friend and colleague, who is now the Ranking Member on Appropriations. I reached out to him to say - as I say publicly today - that when we look at how we are going to spend the money, we need to look not just at how we're going to meet our national security needs but also the compelling human needs in this country. We need to look at the public investments in our children, in our future and in how to promote our economy. And we need to do it on a bipartisan basis. I want to thank Senator Shelby, because he assured me of his cooperation to do so.
"Our committee will function in a way that is open, transparent and follows the regular order. What we want to do in following the regular order is today ask our colleagues to join with us in moving the urgent Supplemental Appropriations Bill, which so many of the American people are depending on us to pass to restore homes, lives and livelihoods.
"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. Danny Inouye. Ted Stevens. Men who fought in World War II to defend America. They stood on this Senate floor to defend the Constitution, and they spoke up for their states. That's what we're going to do.
"But I want everyone to know we also will ensure our spending reflects our values of protecting our country, protecting vulnerable populations and to also preparing America for the future.
"I will have more to say about all of this at a later time, but I just wanted to say I take this not as an honor, but as a great responsibility. I'm so appreciative of the Caucus who confirmed me and I'm very appreciative of the way members of the other side of the aisle have also reached out.
"You know, if we take the time to listen to each other, to respect each other and listen to the needs of the people, we can really work to get more bang out of the buck and get more value for the dollar. We can have a stronger economy and a safer country. We can be frugal without being heartless. And at the same time, we can assure the taxpayers that we've heard them. They want us to really do a better job with our spending but at the same time they want to see it done in an open and transparent process."