Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., will take over as chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and replace the recently deceased Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. (Karen Bleier / AFP)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is expected to take over the gavel of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee after Sen. Patrick Leahy opted against taking the post.
Mikulski has been a member of the committee and its Defense subcommittee for years, and would become the upper chamber’s appropriator as Pentagon and other federal spending is slowing.
The influential seat became vacant when then-Chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, died Dec. 17.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be expected to follow the great leadership of Sen. Inouye, one of my most treasured mentors, and become the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee,” Mikulski said in a Dec. 19 statement. “It is especially gratifying to be the first woman to lead this powerful committee. I am grateful for this opportunity to fight for the day-to-day needs of the American people and the long range needs of the nation.”
Leahy, D-Vt., passed on the job, opting to instead keep the gavel he has wielded for years as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
Gordon Adams, who ran defense budgeting for the Clinton administration, said earlier the same day that “Barbara would do a great job as chair.”
Unlike Mikulski, Leahy would have been a wildcard for the Pentagon and the U.S. defense sector. That’s because, unlike Mikulski, he hails from a state with virtually no defense-sector presence.
Mikulski would take the Appropriations gavel at a time when her power within the upper chamber and Washington would likely expand significantly, Adams said.
“Once we move past the ‘fiscal cliff’ situation, the defense budget is going to come down year-by-year,” Adams said. “And that means, after this cliff is in the past, the appropriators are going to drive the train.”
Mikulski’s office said she likely will formally be handed the Appropriations gavel Dec. 20 during a Senate Democratic caucus meeting.