This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Maryland’s Senator Barbara Mikulski:
What is unique about protecting Maryland’s resources?
Maryland is truly “America in Miniature.” We are blessed to have the Appalachian Mountains, forests, farmland, the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. Our diverse resources support wildlife, provide recreational opportunities and are a part of our economic fabric. The Chesapeake Bay in particular has shaped the identity of Marylanders and was central to our state’s very founding. The people of Maryland have appreciated the Bay’s diversity of wildlife, have sailed its waters and have harvested its seafood over many centuries. My top environmental priorities are to preserve the Chesapeake Bay and to protect the livelihood of those who make a living on the Bay. It is critical to our economy, our environment and to our health that we respect and protect Maryland’s resources.
Are you worried about the effects of climate change on Maryland’s children?
I am absolutely worried about the effects of climate change on our children and their future. I started my career as a social worker in Baltimore helping at-risk children who faced many economic and health hurdles. In Baltimore, nearly 20% of the city’s children suffer from asthma, compared with 9.4% nationwide. Climate change and carbon pollution increases the risk of these health problems, especially for the most at-risk and disadvantaged among us. It also puts our children’s economic futures at risk with the increased cost to society of rising temperatures and sea levels.
That’s why as Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have fought to make sure that the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation have the funding they need to perform climate-related research. Along with our natural resources, Maryland is blessed with human resources in many research-oriented agencies. I’m proud of the work Marylanders have done to study and prepare for climate change and I will continue to fight for them.
Why is a bipartisan effort so important and how can these efforts be achieved in our politically polarizing culture?
Americans are tired of shutdown, slamdown politics and brinksmanship. As Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the 113th Congress, I reached across the aisle to enact two Omnibus bills that funded the federal government, including the programs that perform climate-related research. As compromise bills, they were not perfect, but the agreement meant no government shutdown and no government on autopilot. As Dean of the Senate women, I have led the women in bipartisan efforts throughout the years to advance women’s causes in the Senate, throughout the country and throughout the world. In both the Appropriations Committee and with the bipartisan women of the Senate, we may not always agree on the substance, but we do agree on the civility and I believe that is why we are able to find solutions.
Is there anything you would like to share that is important for Moms Clean Air Force members to know?
The most important thing is to get involved and stay engaged. I started out as a social worker and community activist. These experiences provided valuable lessons that I draw on every day as a United States Senator. I believe my constituents have a right to know, a right to be heard and a right to be represented. I don’t want the next generation of community activists shut out of the process. I want people to have an opportunity to participate in their communities. And I want people to know they have a government on their side. My best advice is to continue to engage in your community and make your voice heard.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Senator Mikulski has been a lifelong fighter for the people of Maryland. As the Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she looks out for the day-to-day needs of Marylanders and the long-range needs of the nation. Senator Mikulski is the longest serving woman in the history of the United States Congress and the unofficial Dean of the Senate Women, through which she has served as a mentor to other women Senators as they first take office. In all of these capacities, she builds coalitions to achieve real accomplishments, like passing Omnibus funding bills for the federal government in Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 and passing legislation to strengthen our nation’s childcare laws.