Do You Fear Sen. Mikulski? The Leader of the Free World Does.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s legend — well known among veteran lawmakers, staffers and journalists — is growing.

She has for years been known as a no-nonsense legislator who always is willing to crack the whip — and a few heads, if need be — to get things done.

Her still-new role as Senate Appropriations committee chairwoman has given her a more-prominent role in the upper chamber. And that means her brusque, though professional, style has gone mainstream.

In late March, Senate Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told Defense News, that if any senator could help the upper chamber get back to “regular order” on annual spending bills, it’s Mikulski.

“Let me put it this way,” Reed said with a wry grin: “She’s committed to doing that, and she’s somebody that has a strong will.”

To say some senators and staffers fear Mikulski might be a bit of a hyperbole. But only a bit.

Add the leader of the free world to that list — and he has a fleet of lethal drones…

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., noted during a Thursday Appropriations Committee hearing that he heard a rumor that trickled out of a closed-door meeting the previous day during which Obama met with Senate Democrats. 

“I heard the president expressed his fear of you yesterday,” Kirk quipped to Mikulski, bringing knowing laughter from everyone in the large Dirksen Senate Office Building hearing room. Including the chairwoman herself.

“That’s a Chicago guy talking,” Mikulski said of Obama, adding Windy City politicians fear no one.

But Kirk wasn’t convinced, insisting that Obama — and many others in Washington — know Mikulski is not to be trifled with.

“I don’t think the president is the only one who falls into that category,” Kirk said, eliciting an even bigger round of laughter.

But the moment ended quickly. Mikulski had already moved to the next matter, in her never-ending quest to keep the trains on time.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett