U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, announces she will retire at the end of her term in 2016.
I am pleased to be here again in Fells Point, where I have spent a big part of my life and to be joined by my colleague in the Senate, Senator Ben Cardin. This is the neighborhood where I've spent most of my life, where I've learned the values that have guided my life, and where important things have happened here. This is…we're right in the neighborhood, exactly in the path of the expressway that I got into politics challenging.
Growing up here in East Baltimore was a real community. It's been an urban village. People lived, worked and shopped and worshiped, all here. But you know it's not so much what we did, but it's about what we believed.
Here, I learned the values from my family. My mother and father, from the nuns and priests who taught me, from the people in the neighborhood themselves. Neighbor always helping neighbor and that we were in this together. My great-grandmother, who landed here just a few blocks away with little money in her pocket but big dreams in her heart. I got the chance to share in these dreams. We learned about patriotism. Neighbor helping neighbor, that we were all in this together.
And my mother and father had a little neighborhood grocery store, and everyday my mother father would walk across the street, open up those doors and say, "Good morning. Can I help you?"
And that's the way I was raised – this whole sense of service. And even today, as I go down to Washington, commuting from Baltimore, looking at the Capitol, I ask myself, "Good morning. Can I help you?"
So service for me is about solving problems, helping my constituents, making sure that they not only get by but that they get ahead, and never, ever putting their needs on a back-burner.
Now, in 2016 my election, reelection would be on the horizon. I have thought long and hard about the next two years and I had to ask myself this QUESTION: Who am I campaigning for? Am I campaigning for me, or am I campaigning for my constituents?
I had to decide how I would spend my time – fighting for my job or fighting for their job. Do I spend my time raising money or do I spend my time raising hell? Do I focus on my election, or do I focus on the next generation? Do I spend my time promising what I would do, or do I do it now and do it the way I like to do.
So as I thought about who am I campaigning for, it really became clear that I want to campaign for the people. I want to campaign for the people of Maryland. I'm wanna make sure that they have a future, that they have a job, that they have promise and opportunity.
So I'm here today in Fells Point to announce that I will not be seeking a sixth term in the United States senate.
This has been a hard decision to make. I have served in the Senate for a while and at the conclusion of this term I will have served over 30 years. That's hard to believe.
And I want the people Maryland to know there's nothing gloomy about this announcement. There's no health problem. I'm not frustrated with the Senate. The Senate will always be what the Senate is, and…but what I have decided that the best thing that I'm going to do, is where do I spend my time?
I wanna give 120 percent of my time focused on my constituents, because it's never been about me. It's always been about them, and I wanna spend the next two years focusing on how I can help Maryland, how I can help the nation. Focusing on the middle class, my agenda will be how can I give the middle class – both here in this state and around the country – a raise? I've yet to finish the job I started with Lilly Ledbetter, to make sure women do get equal pay and equal…for equal work, and are not harassed or punished for even fighting for it.
I want to make sure that when they revisit the tax code, that I give targeted tax breaks. While others wanna have tax breaks to send jobs overseas, I wanna have tax breaks to send kids to college. When others are looking for a big deductions for big corporations, I wanna make sure we raise the child care deduction to $6,000 a year. To have a new caregiver tax rate to help those who are taking care of someone with a serious illness or those who are taking care of someone with Alzheimer's, like that took the life and my father.
And for our young people, really to focus on the next two years to truly make college more affordable through a variety of programs. I'll be introducing legislation to do that.
And to make sure our veterans, we keep our promises. And for our seniors – honor thy father and their mother is not only a great commandment to live by, but we need to make sure we keep that safety net.
So to all the people of Maryland and even those around the country who are watching, listening now – remember. For the next two years, I will be here, working the way I do, 10%, fighting the way I do, being strong in principle but trying to build those bipartisan coalitions. And when this term is done, I will know that I have given it my very best shot.
And I want to thank the people of Maryland [choking up] for the trust that they've given me. I want to thank Senator Cardin for being the best partner – and Senator Sarbanes – that you could have, for a great staff that I know will be answering the phones to say, "What the hell did she just do?" and the answer is, I’m just creating an opportunity to make sure that I give Maryland all that I've got so that the people that I represent have a shot at a better and more prosperous way for…way ahead.
So thank you very much, and that concludes my announcement. But though I'm turning a new page, make no mistake – we're not writing the last chapter.
If anybody has any questions, I'll be happy to take a few of them.
QUESTION: With this announcement, clearly both as a political force and as a women, you've made history in the U.S. Senate. Where you stand today, could you look back on where you started in the U.S. Senate and tell us what you see now that you are going to leave in your way?
MIKULSKI: Well, what I've seen is that first of all, the Senate is a dynamic place. When I came to the Senate, I was the only Democratic woman. I was the first elected in her own right. But I said I wanted…though I was the first, I didn't want to be the only, and I am so excited that there are now 20 women in the United State Senate – 16 Democrats and four Republicans, excuse me, five Republicans – and we work hands across the aisle. And I look forward to standing with them on Wednesday, when we're gonna be taking on, as a group, the whole issue of human trafficking. The other thing that I saw is the whole new opportunities for our economy. When I started out, there was no fields like biotech, like cybertech. But Maryland has the innovation economy. What we have here is great federal labs like the NIH and we have Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, coming up with the new ideas for the new products for the new jobs. 3D used to be a gimmick that you would go to watch a movie. Now it's doing printing that could revolutionize manufacturing. We might not have the old Bethlehem Steel, but we will be people of steel to make sure that we have the jobs for the future. So I saw changes, but change is good and change is inevitable.
QUESTION: [indiscernible] who might be interested in running for this seat. Is there anyone in mind who you think would be good for the job?
MIKULSKI: Maryland has a lot of talent, and they'll be telling you about it within the next ten minutes. So [laughing]…I'll leave them to get it out there. I , of course, will be supporting the Democratic nominee. The primary is April 2016. And that's what I had to face – the reality of a clock. That's why I've made this decision now.
QUESTION: I am asking what you want to say specifically to the people who have been so loyal to you over the years as to what you will be doing now, so they don't think that you're not going to be here.
MIKULSKI: Well, first of all, I have two years in my term. My term does not expire until New Year's…until December 2016. So I am going to be around. I'm Senator Barb. And this is what exactly I said in my announcement. Where do I spend my time the next two years? Is it about me and getting re-elected, or is it about them and their future? And as I crisscross Maryland, what I see now is that people spend a lot of time just getting by. I wanna work to have the public policies to make sure they and their families get ahead.
QUESTION: What would you say, as you look back on that 30 years you've already done, is your proudest moment, your best accomplishment? What do you feel is close to your heart that you can say, "Yeah, I'm living my life [indiscernible]. That's what I've done so far."
MIKULSKI: Well for me, it's been no job too big or too small. So whether I met with a family at a round table in Anne Arundel County, discussing special needs children, and out of that listening to a mother, where we came up with Rose's Law, where we changed the definition and got rid of the stigmatized word of "retarded" to "intellectual disabilities," was a proud accomplishment. My best ideas have come from the people, but taking that idea and then going to Washington to see what can we do for all special needs children. To be out listening to our firefighters, our volunteer firefighters, and seeing that a new fire engine costs a million bucks, that equipment to protect them costs over a thousand. You can't do that on tip jars, fish fries and pancake breakfasts. There's not enough crab cakes in the world or in Hagerstown to fund that. So I worked with the Republicans and with Steny Hoyer and others in the House, a fire grant program. Right now in Maryland, firefighters have more equipment that they to protect us, and we protected them. But that became a national program. So for me, it's not any one accomplishment. It's been the accomplishments and the job of listening to the people, knowing what their needs are, responding to that need and trying to turn it into national policy.
QUESTION: What do you plan to do in two years when you do retire – go crabbing, what? What are your plans for retirement?
MIKULSKI: First of all, I haven't thought that far. This was a very big decision. I really have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy being a United State Senator. I like the fact that right this minute my staff is taking calls on constituent services, whether it's Social Security or a veterans' backlog. I like going into the Senate, to try to mix it up, to advance an agenda, and find bipartisan solutions, so like we can get the Homeland Security funded. Right now, we've got Coast Guard people in the Chesapeake Bay trying to break the logjam of ice to get commerce through. I wanna go back this afternoon to try to break the logjam to get the legislation through. So two years from now, I'll probably be walking around here at the Daily Grind, having a coffee and wondering, How is Ben doing in his [indiscernible]? But other than that, right now, I wanna, like I said, I don't want to spend my time campaigning for me. I wanna campaign for the people.