Mikulski Speaks on Senate Floor to Honor Retiring Colleague Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

December 12, 2012

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the Dean of the Senate women, today spoke on the Senate floor to honor her retiring Senate colleague U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).  

The full text of her remarks as delivered follows:  

"There's my good friend, Kay Bailey Hutchison, who's just come to the floor. And I'm glad she's going to be here to hear what I've got to say about her. I hold her in such enormous high esteem.  Now, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is known for her competence, her strong character and her outstanding work as a champion for Texas, an advocate for women and a real patriot, dedicated to serving our nation.  

"I, too, know her as a dear friend, someone deeply committed to creating that zone of civility among the women of the Senate. When Senator Hutchison arrived in the Senate in 1993, there were prickly politics beginning to emerge. She had come from the Texas legislature and knew the dynamics of a rough and tumble legislative body. But as we worked together on something called the Homemaker IRA, we said, 'Why don't we just get together to see if we can create a zone of civility?'  

"That's when we began bringing the Senate women together for our monthly bipartisan dinners. We have rules for our dinners -- no staff, no leaks and no memos. We talk about everything from hair-dos to the hair-raising – how we could stop the global war against terror and fight the deadly scourge of breast cancer. We have worked together, again, across the aisle.  

"In 1992, we also convened our bipartisan power workshops to help every woman get a good start in the Senate. Senator Kay Bailey and I helped establish an atmosphere where we women could disagree without being disagreeable. The women of the Senate do not have a caucus. We are here to represent states – the Constitution tells us that is our job. So we are not a caucus, but we are a force. And we know we can disagree without being disagreeable.  

"One story I'd like to share is from the Senate debate on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Senator Hutchison and I agreed absolutely on the same goal – equal pay for equal or comparable work for women. However, we disagreed on the means. Senator Hutchison had about nine amendments. We duked it out here on the floor. We went earring to earring. And our Senate colleagues commented what intellectual rigor our debate had, what a sense of comity and an exchange of ideas it was. And how at the end of the day, it not only passed the Senate, but did it in a way where everybody could be proud of the process.  

"Why can't we do that every day? Gee, I wish we could.  

"Then, working with Senator Hutchison – and this is how we got started – was on the Homemaker IRA. This was Senator Hutchison's idea. She came to me and she said, 'You know, Senator Barb, there are stay-at-home moms, they are limited to only $500 to what they can contribute to an IRA. And if they have the money, and if they have the will and the wallet, we should give them the same tax opportunities as if they were working in the marketplace because work at home should be valued as well.' And absolutely, we changed that legislation. Madam President, I have pending here legislation that would permanently change the name of that Homemaker IRA to the 'Kay Bailey Hutchison Spousal IRA,' because she really did lead the way. I was an able ally, and we made a difference.  

"I could go through item after item, the way we've worked on breast cancer together, the way we've worked on Appropriations. She is my ranking member on Commerce, Justice and Science. We've worked together on the space program. We've worked together to keep our areas safe. From the start, we shared a personal commitment that technology in space could help America remain exceptional – a belief in supporting research in science leading to new ideas that would be not only new areas that we would explore, but new technologies for new products and new jobs. Yes, I visited her dad at mission control and I've been there during the great research that we were able to see being done there.  

"And remember, the home of the Komen Foundation is in Texas, and Senator Hutchison was very clear that she was an advocate for women's health. We worked together on mammogram quality standards. Madam President, were you aware that in the early days – and I know that sometimes we sound like we built the pyramids together when I tell these stories, it is both ancient history and a recent reality – if you went to a doctor's office 12 years ago for a mammogram, you might have gotten a chest x-ray, and they would have called it a mammogram? It was often given by untrained technicians, with no standards for the equipment, with no guarantees that it would work the way it's supposed to work, often uncalibrated and ineffectual.  

"Senator Hutchison and I worked on establishing basic quality standards for mammograms based on sound science defined through hearings and working with the Institute of Medicine, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Standards. Now if go into your doctor's office for that mammogram, you'll see a certificate from your government that says this is a place where you know the mammogram technology will work and the people who will be giving it will be trained.  

"You know, once again, early detection and screening, saving lives a million at a time. Isn't that fantastic? And again, working across the aisle, we were able to do that.  

"We also did a book together. Senator Kay Bailey was the leader in helping us publish our famous book Nine and Counting. Maybe it will time for another book. But when the chapter of the Senate is written, we want to be sure that a chapter includes a big tribute to the work of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.    

"In this institution, it is the personal relationships that often build policy. That's why I went to Texas to tour the space program with Senator Hutchison. That's where we heard about the National Space Biomedical Research Institute at Baylor. I was there. I met Senator Hutchison's brother who faced the same blood cancer that Geraldine Ferraro faced. Gerry and her brother became fast friends, so Kay and Barb teamed up again and we pushed research at the National Institutes of Health. Because we all know cancer knows no party, it knows no zip code, it knows no ideology. But we know that we need to work together to be able to do it. And on that wonderful day of friendship, we learned the kinds of things we study in space will help us be more effective in fighting cancer here on Earth.  

"Kay invited me to Houston many times. You know I grew up in Baltimore. It is a city known for its row houses, not for its rodeos. Kay invited me to come into the rodeo in the Astrodome. Well, when I showed up, to her surprise, I had on little boots on, a cowgirl hat and a vest. She put me in a buckboard and deep in the heart of Texas, we circled the Astrodome together. I was in a buckboard. She was in a palomino next to me. At the end of the evening, I was there munching on barbeque, affectionately being called Buckboard Barb. I have the pictures to show it. They're locked up. I don't distribute them widely.  

"I say that because, again, out of that comes great friendships that paves the way to putting our heads together to solve our national programs, and do it in a way where we get the best ideas from a variety of approaches. And at the end of the day, America is better off.  

"Though we didn't build the pyramids, I hope Senator Hutchison knows there's a Latin saying that I learned in a Catholic girls' school many years ago that means 'We will build a monument more lasting than bronze.'  

"When Senator Hutchison returns to Texas to find a new way to serve the people of this country, she knows that here in this institution, along with Olympia Snowe, they built monuments far more lasting than any statues or any made of bronze. They have made a difference in the lives of people and they've done it in a way that they can be proud of – for which we are all grateful."