TIME White House

Obama Comes Out Swinging Against House Republican Budget

President Obama
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks at the City Club of Cleveland on March 18, 2015.

He criticized the budget proposal during an event in Cleveland

President Obama took his trash talking on Republicans’ 2016 budget proposal on the road Wednesday, telling a Cleveland audience it offers a “path to prosperity [for] those who are already prospering.”

During a speech to the City Club of Cleveland, the President said though the success of his plan to expand “middle-class economics” proves that “trickle-down economics” don’t work, Republicans’ budget proposal—which would balance the budget within 10 years—doesn’t reflect that.

“We know now that the doom and gloom predictions that justified this [type of] budget in the past were wrong,” Obama said. “Despite the new evidence, their approach hasn’t changed. “

Since the House budget was released on Tuesday the Obama administration has come out swinging, using it as a convenient foil against his own budget ideas. Republicans suggest cutting $5.5 trillion from the budget over the next ten years, mainly by pulling back investments in domestic programs. Defense spending under the budget would increase, about $36 billion over Obama’s budget. The budget also calls for repealing Obama’s signature health care law.

The President was particularly critical of the tax proposals in the Republican budget, which he said would benefit the wealthiest Americans and leave middle class Americans out to dry. “Those at the top aren’t asked to sacrifice a single dime,” Obama said.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, hit back at the President’s appearance in his home state. “Sadly this is just the latest example of President Obama putting campaign-style events and partisan politics above governing. And it’s all a ruse designed to distract from the president’s own problems, “ a post on the Speaker’s website reads.

TIME Congress

Senate Democrats Block Anti-Trafficking Bill, Again

Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. From left are, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Durbin, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev.
Molly Riley—AP Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015. From left are, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Durbin, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev.

Senate Democrats again blocked a bill Wednesday that would create a fund to help victims of human trafficking over concerns about an abortion provision.

Even Democratic co-sponsors of the bill have backed off of it in the past week, claiming that they did not notice a provision that would bar the fees raised from perpetrators to build the fund to pay for abortions. After failing to nab the necessary 60 votes on Tuesday, Republicans failed to clear a procedural hurdle again Wednesday. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Democratic leadership, says “there’s only one way” to now break the impasse.

“They’ve got to take the offensive language out or take the bill off the floor,” he told TIME.

Republicans have blasted Democrats for blocking a bipartisan bill once expected to pass easily. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote Wednesday that Democrats had made a “historic mistake.”

“Democrats actually filibustered a bill to help victims of modern slavery, apparently because left-wing lobbyists told them to,” he said.

The bill’s delay has pushed back the confirmation vote of President Obama’s Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch, who has had to wait around 130 days, longer than the past five nominees combined. McConnell has said that her vote will occur once the sex-trafficking bill is passed.

TIME Congress

Senate Democrat Says Nominee Told to ‘Sit in the Back of the Bus’

Justice Department Officials Announce Charges Against HSBC
Ramin Talaie—Getty Images U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch arrives for a news conference to announce money laundering charges against HSBC on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

The White House has avoided making similar arguments

Senate Democrats are turning up the heat on Republicans for delaying a vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, implying that it’s tied to her race.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the upper chamber, argued that the four-month delay of Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated for the post, may be related to her race. Using wording suggestive of the days of segregation, he said that Lynch had been told to “sit in the back of the bus.”

Durbin said that there was “no substantive reason” for delaying Lynch’s confirmation process, which has been the longest for an Attorney General nominee in 30 years and longer than the past five nominees combined.

“This is the first African-American woman in the history of the United States to be nominated to serve as attorney general. It is a civil rights milestone,” said Durbin. “Why has the Senate Republican leadership decided to target this good woman and to stop her from serving as the first African-American attorney general of the United States of America? There is no good reason. There is no substantive reason.”

“Loretta Lynch, the first African-American woman nominated to be attorney general, is asked to sit in the back of the bus when it comes to the Senate calendar,” he added. “That is unfair, it’s unjust, it is beneath the decorum and dignity of the United States Senate. This woman deserves fairness.”

Durbin’s comments echoed those of Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Tuesday that race “certainly can be considered a major factor” in her delay.

But Durbin’s rhetoric Wednesday is a clear escalation from those of his Democratic colleagues. White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated Tuesday that Lynch is well qualified for the post but did not remark on her race.

“Well, let me just say that if Ms. Lynch were not confirmed by the United States Senate, it would be an astonishing display of partisanship,” said Earnest. “Particularly given the fact that not a single member of the United States Senate has raised a legitimate concern about her aptitude for that office.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the Lynch vote won’t occur until after the Senate passes a bill that would help victims of sex trafficking, which Democrats have been filibustering recently over abortion provisions. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said that the Lynch nomination is next on the schedule and would occur as soon as Democrats lifted their obstruction.

“The only thing holding up that vote is the Democrats’ filibuster of a bill that would help prevent kids from being sold into sex slavery,” said Stewart. “The sooner they allow the Senate to pass that bipartisan bill, the sooner the Senate can move to the Lynch nomination.”

With reporting by Maya Rhodan/Washington

TIME Military

Pentagon and Its Allies Begin the Budget Death Watch

House Armed Services hearing with Joint Chiefs of Staff for FY2016
Yuri Gripas / REUTERS General Raymond Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Bottom Line: 'The only way to save lives is to boost spending'

War is a nasty business. Soldiers and civilians die. It has been ever thus.

That’s what makes Tuesday’s hearing before the House Armed Services Committee distressing. Unless the Pentagon gets more money next year, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Army’s top general agreed, more U.S. soldiers will die.

Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, pressed Army General Ray Odierno on the declining readiness rates of his 32 brigade combat teams. Only one in three of the 5,000-troop units is ready to go to war today, short of the Army’s two-in-three target.

“Doesn’t this mean that more people will get injured or killed?” Turner asked the Army chief of staff. “It’s not just an issue of readiness, risk, capability or mission. It’s that more people will get injured or killed. Is that correct?”

“That’s absolutely right, Congressman,” Odierno responded. “It means it’ll take us longer to do our mission. It’ll cost us in lives. It’ll cost us in injuries. And it potentially could cost us in achieving the goals that we’re attempting to achieve, as well.”

House Oversight Committee Hearing On Obamacare Transparency
Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty ImagesRep. Mike Turner. R-Ohio, member of the armed services committee

“So, the translation we need is, we can lose, people will die, and people will be injured?” Turner asked again.

“That is correct, sir,” Odierno confirmed.

It became something of a refrain. “Let me now do my plain speaking,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James added. The capped, congressionally-mandated military budget “is going to place American lives at greater risk, both at home and abroad, if we are forced to live with it.”

It’s a craven way to beg. If the nation doesn’t want soldiers to die, it should shelve its military. The question isn’t will soldiers die, but how many deaths is the nation willing to pay for its national defense?

Every pound of armor not added to a tank, every ounce of ceramic plate not added to body armor, means troops could die. So does every compromise baked into the design of aircraft ejection seats, landing craft used by the Marines, and the hull thickness of Navy warships. Decisions like this are made every day inside the Pentagon bureaucracy.

The job of the military and Congress isn’t to reduce the risk of military deaths to zero. It’s to calibrate the threats and set the death rate at what the nation concludes is an acceptable level.

Some lawmakers at the hearing made clear tradeoffs are required. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former Air Force A-10 pilot, warned that the Air Force’s plan to retire its A-10 ground-attack plane seems shortsighted when, sometimes, “only the A-10 can save lives.” General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, conceded that there “are circumstances where you would prefer to have an A-10.” But the cost of a warplane like the A-10 that can only do a single mission is unaffordable. “We have priced ourselves out of that game,” he said.

“So it’s a budget issue,” McSally declared—and an added cost that, in her eyes, troops on the ground might have to pay in blood, yet one the Air Force is willing to pay.

Lawmakers’ efforts to save pet programs and bases can have a similar impact, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a former Marine, added. “Sometimes when we’re protecting jobs back here at home, we’re putting lives at risk overseas,” he said. Then the four-tour Iraq vet stated the obvious to the military brass arrayed before the panel: “It’s really your decision to make those tradeoffs.”

The military always says one death is one too many. But the troops know that sending young men and women to train, never mind fight, among heavy, fast-moving equipment, often punctuated by explosions and heat, makes death inevitable. There have been many examples of military hardware found to be unduly dangerous, and fixes were made. Not to eliminate death, but to reduce it.

Tough training makes better troops. “The more you sweat in peace,” Army General George S. Patton said, “the less you bleed in war.”

Military training is dangerous. Just ask the families of the 11 soldiers and Marines who died when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed Mar. 10 in Florida amid dense fog. They died not because they weren’t ready, but because the U.S. military had the money to pay for their training.

Hundreds of troops perish, largely unnoticed, in such training accidents every year.

Training also costs money. If budget cuts reduce training, it’s likely that fewer troops will die in training accidents. But that’s no reason to cut training; the nation wants its fighting forces honed to a sharp edge.

So the Pentagon funds drills, exercises and war games designed to prime the nation for war. Just because some troops will be killed in such training is no reason to curtail it.

The same holds for fitting the nation’s military strategy to what the nation has decided to allocate for defense. Hawks argue that you shouldn’t fit strategy to budgets, but that has always been the reality. The public will fund the Pentagon to the degree it thinks is necessary, but no more.

Of course, if money were no object, ready is always better. But the smarter question isn’t about the prospect of additional deaths if only one of every three brigade combat teams is ready for war. The smarter question is why is the target two out of every three?

And that leads to another question, even for the math-challenged among us: the nation, through its messy political process, has decided the Army need to get smaller. That will drive up the readiness rate of the surviving brigade combat teams. If the military had faced reality and adjusted its spending to accommodate the cuts contained in 2011’s Budget Control Act—instead of spending the last four years pretending they were never going to happen—it would be well down that road already.

Neither generals nor lawmakers should use the threat of dead soldiers to bolster their budget arguments. The nation can afford whatever military its leaders decide it requires. Blaming prospective future deaths on budget cuts demeans those now wearing the uniform, as well as those who are dying in peacetime, readying for war.

Those troops are doing their jobs. It’s long past time for Congress and senior military officers to do theirs.

TIME Congress

Illinois Congressman to Resign After Reports of Extravagant Spending

Aaron Schock
Seth Perlman—AP Representative Aaron Schock speaks to reporters in Peoria, Ill., on Feb. 6, 2015

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock, once heralded as a rising Republican star, resigned Tuesday after reports of wild spending on everything from a Buenos Aires duty-free shopping spree to redecorating his Capitol Hill office in trappings representative of Downton Abbey.

Multiple reports founds that Schock had failed to disclose trips abroad and that he spent lavishly on both his employees — taking his interns to a Katy Perry concert and staffers to a weekend in New York — and himself, hiring a photographer to document the travels of “the Ripped Representative,” as Men’s Health magazine once called him.

“The constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself,” he said in a statement.

The controversy started after a Washington Post report on his extravagant office decorations, which led Schock to say he would personally pay the interior designer tens of thousands of dollars.

But it quickly grew more serious amid numerous reports delving into his home and auto payments. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that political donors “built, sold and financed” a Schock-owned home in Illinois. A Chicago Sun Times investigation also found that Schock had purchased a nearly $74,000 Chevy Tahoe with campaign funds and then put the vehicle in his name and charged taxpayers for over $1,200 of mileage reimbursements.

And he billed the federal government and his campaign for roughly 170,000 miles for his previous car, according to Politico. The Office of Congressional Ethics had begun to reach out to Schock’s political affiliates, according to Politico, which asked the Congressman last week if he had broken any ethics rules or federal laws.

“I certainly hope not,” he replied. “I’m not an attorney.”

Schock’s fall from power will hit the GOP’s purse strings. Schock gave the House Republicans campaign arm over a million dollars last cycle while his GOP Generation Y Fund racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars.

TIME Military

GOP Tries to Have Its Pentagon Cake and Eat It, Too

Operation against Daesh militants in Iraq's Tikrit
Ali Mohammed—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The continuing war against the Islamic State is one reason the Pentagon needs more money, Republican lawmakers argue.

Budget move would keep cap on domestic programs while easing it on Pentagon

The 2011 budget deal that imposed caps on federal spending has begun to bite. That’s easy to see with the proposed House Republican budget for 2016 that keeps the lid on domestic spending while popping it open for the military—to the tune of more than a third of a trillion dollars over the coming decade.

It’s a complicated storyline, but worth following if you’re a taxpayer.

For starters, the GOP-controlled House Budget Committee plan pledges to keep the sequestration caps on both domestic and defense spending. But because the nation was waging two wars when Congress wrote the Budget Control Act, it exempted what has come to be called the “overseas contingency operations” account from such limits.

Normal folks used to call what became the OCO account “the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” President George W. Bush’s White House called it the “Global War on Terror.” Some in his Pentagon, echoing then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, called it the “long war.”

But shortly after President Obama took office, the Pentagon issued an edict changing the name once again. “This administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror,” it said. “Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.”

But one thing didn’t change: the OCO account can ignore the 2011 budget caps that apply to nearly all other federal discretionary spending. That’s why the GOP plan boosts Obama’s $58 billion for overseas contingencies by $36 billion, for a total of $94 billion. That increase brings the total GOP defense-budget proposal to $613 billion, beyond what Obama wants to spend.

“The proposed House resolution would constitute the most cynical and fraudulent use yet made of the OCO budgetary gimmick,” says Gordon Adams, who oversaw Pentagon spending in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton Administration. “In effect, the House Budget committee is proposing to have their fiscal discipline and eat their defense increase at the same time.”

For four years, the Pentagon and its allies in Congress have fought the defense budget caps. Their inaction has kept the Defense Department from learning to live within them, and the retooling and reforms such an acknowledgement would require. Their fight continues, which is why the service chiefs trekked to Capitol Hill when Obama unveiled his budget and said the caps were hurting national defense. “The number one thing that keeps me up at night is that if we’re asked to respond to an unknown contingency, I will send soldiers to that contingency not properly trained and ready,” Army General Ray Odierno said.

The military and its congressional allies argue that the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, continuing troubles in Afghanistan, and Russia’s threat to Ukraine require increased levels of defense spending. The House proposal would add $387 billion to Pentagon spending between 2016 and 2025.

Yet even without OCO funding, Obama’s proposed 2016 budget of $534 billion would be the largest base budget in Pentagon history and eclipse Cold War spending levels. Any OCO addition would be icing on the cake. “There is no justification, whatever, for this increase,” Adams argues. “It is utterly unrelated to the reality of any combat operations the U.S. is undertaking.”

Even some Republicans didn’t care for the budgetary legerdemain. “I don’t like it,” said Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Sommittee. “OCO is a gimmick.”

Still, the GOP budget plan, like the President’s, is merely a proposal. Next year’s actual budget will have to be hammered out by congressional committees over the coming months.

Read next: Republicans to Renew Call for Obamacare Repeal in 2016 Budget

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Fiscal Conservatives, Defense Hawks Square Off On Spending

John Boehner
J. Scott Applewhite—AP Speaker of the House John Boehner responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, at the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 26, 2015.

The House GOP budget cuts $5.5 trillion over 10 years

House leaders introduced a budget Tuesday that could spark a fight between the pro-military and anti-deficit wings of the Republican Party.

The proposed House Republican budget largely keeps across-the-board spending caps known as sequestration in place while setting aside an additional $94 billion to fight terrorism overseas over the next fiscal year.

That amount is $36 billion more than President Obama’s request for emergency funds to fight terrorism, which could help bring on board the 70 or so defense hawks in the House who have said they’ll only support a budget that has at least as much spending as the president’s budget.

But the proposal also risks losing support in the Senate, where Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton have said they will not support a budget that leaves in place the sequestration cuts. Spending increases in future years could also cause concern among fiscal conservatives in both chambers.

The proposal would balance the federal budget in 10 years by cutting $5.5 trillion, mostly from domestic programs, particularly in health care. As in past budgets, Republicans propose repealing the Affordable Care Act and creating a Medicare premium support model for seniors beginning in 2024. It would also give states more flexibility to adapt their Medicaid programs.

“It is a plan that balances the budget in less than ten years, secures and strengthens vital programs – like Medicare – provides our military men and women with the resources they need to protect American families, and would make Washington more efficient, effective and accountable to hard-working taxpayers,” said House Budget Chairman Tom Price in a statement.

To be sure, the House proposal is more of a political chit than an actual working budget. But many Republicans in Congress hope to pass the first regular budget since 2006 as a sign of party unity and a show of legislative progress. In addition, since a budget needs only a simple majority, it would be a good way to get around opposition from the Democratic minority in both chambers.

There is one other incentive for the Republican-led Congress to pass a budget. A spending blueprint would allow Republicans to make use of a maneuver, known as reconciliation, to clear certain bills through the Senate with a simple majority, instead of needing to overcome the 60-vote hurdle posed by a filibuster.

GOP leaders haven’t specified what they might like to use the procedural end-run to accomplish — and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch already said one big priority, tax reform, will not be subject to the move this year. But it remains a powerful tool. Democrats used it in 2010 to secure the Affordable Care Act’s final passage after losing their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

President Obama ripped the Republican budget proposal on Tuesday following a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, saying it is “not a budget that reflects the future.”

“I was hoping for a little luck of the Irish as the Republicans put forward their budget today,” President Obama said. ” Unfortunately, what we are seeing right now is a failure to invest in education and infrastructure and research and national defense – all the things that we need to grow, to create jobs, stay at the forefront of innovation and keep our country safe.”

With reporting by Tory Newmyer

TIME Congress

Republicans to Renew Call for Obamacare Repeal in 2016 Budget

Rep. Diane Black takes her seat for the House Budget Committee hearing on "The Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) Budget and Economic Outlook" on Jan. 27, 2015.
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/AP Rep. Diane Black takes her seat for the House Budget Committee hearing on "The Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) Budget and Economic Outlook" on Jan. 27, 2015.

"We can start over with health care reforms that protect the doctor-patient relationship and expand access to quality affordable health care"

Republicans will again call for a full repeal of President Obama’s signature health law in the House’s 2016 budget proposal to be released on Tuesday.

“Our proposal repeals all of Obamacare so we can start over with health care reforms that protect the doctor-patient relationship and expand access to quality affordable health care,” said Rep. Dian Black of Tennessee in a two-minute video previewing the budget. Previous budgets authored by the House’s former Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan also called for repeal of the healthcare act.

The New York Times reports the budget plan will also make substantial cuts to Medicaid spending and essentially create vouchers for private insurance for future Medicare recipients. The White House said Monday the Affordable Care Act had provided coverage to 16.4 million previously uninsured peopl.

Members of the House Budget Committee previewed the broad strokes of their budget plan, which they say “balances the budget” and “lays the foundation for new jobs,” in a video released on the YouTube channel of Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price. The budget would also simplify the tax code and expand energy production under its plan for creating new jobs. It would also increase defense spending, Fox News reports.

“Our country faces massive challenges, but with positive solutions like these we will overcome them and create an America that is more secure, stronger, and full of opportunities,” said Price.

Full details of the budget will be released Tuesday morning.

TIME Congress

Mikulski ‘No Passing Fad’ After Three Decades in Senate

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, speaks during a news conference announcing her retirement after her current term, in the Fells Point section of Baltimore on March 2, 2015.
Steve Ruark—AP Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, speaks during a news conference announcing her retirement after her current term, in the Fells Point section of Baltimore on March 2, 2015.

No B.S. BAM Retires After 30 Years

Long-serving Sen. Barbara Mikulski has not yet taken a side in the race to replace her among Maryland Democrats. But she made clear this week that the key to her heart will be pay equality.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a female Senator, either. Asked if she would like to see a woman take her seat, Mikulski was noncommittal.

“I would hope that Marylanders would pick someone who is a very strong advocate for them and their day-to-day needs, knows how to listen to them and convert [those needs] into national policy,” she told TIME. “And of course to be a big supporter of making sure that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution are lived out in the workplace.”

The race for Mikulski’s open seat in Democratic-leaning Maryland will be brutal. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards have both announced runs for the Democratic nomination already. Other Deocratic heavy hitters such as Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Rep. Elijah Cummings, former state delegate Heather R. Mizeur and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are all considering a run.

Whoever wins will have big shoes to fill. Mikulski, 78, is considered the “dean” of the 20 female senators. She holds “power workshops” for freshmen — Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins still remembers her invitation and cram course in the appropriations process in 1997 — and organizes dinners every month or so.

“We have relationships now today because she and [former North Carolina Sen.] Kay Hagan were so adamant about keeping that up,” says Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell.

During Mikulski’s 1986 bid for Senate, President Reagan said the “wily liberal” would meet a similar fate as the hula hoop and the all-asparagus diet.

“Well I’ve never used a hula hoop; I did try the asparagus diet,” she said. “I turned out to not be a passing fad.”

Mikulski reminisced about how much has changed for women in politics from when Mikulski first began as a Baltimore City Councilwoman in 1971.

“You know, there was the central casting: the gray hair and the distinguished person,” said Mikulski, who’s 4’11’’ and believes her colleagues’ “little general in pearls” description is accurate, although that’s not what she would call herself. Mikulski, who’s middle name is Ann, is referred to as “BAM” by her staff.

“I just laughed when they said I didn’t look the part, I just said this is what the part looks like,” she said. “I just squared my shoulders, put my lipstick on and kept on going door to door, kept on knocking on doors, kept on getting elected to open the doors for other women.”

She’s done that both legislatively and in the Senate, a boy’s club only surpassed in exclusivity by the one informally practiced by presidents.

While in office, Mikulski pushed for years for equal pay for equal work, culminating in the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first bill President Obama signed in office. She added expansive provisions in the Affordable Care Act related to women’s preventative health and wrote a major bill helping spouses avert poverty while trying to pay for nursing home care. Her influence has been broad—her office notes her fierce support of the Hubble space telescope, which is managed in Maryland—and she has broke gender barriers, becoming the first female Democratic Senator elected in her own right in 1987 and the first Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee in 2012.

“I think of a fighter,” said Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of his colleague. “I can tell you of meetings in our caucus where the health care bill came up and didn’t have strong provisions on women’s health care. Sen. Mikulski got up and within a matter of an hour the health care bill was changed.”

Cantwell and Collins, who talked to TIME while walking together in the underground tunnels of the Capitol, happily rattled off a number of decades-old Mikulski sayings, including “square my shoulders,” the bipartisan group of female senators are a “force not a caucus,” and that senators should talk “not only in macroeconomics but in macaroni.” When asked if she was effective because “everyone’s afraid of her”—as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid once said—Mikulski objected, recalling another oft-repeated phrase: “insistent and persistent.”

But Mikulski’s impact in the Senate is much larger among her female colleagues than inspirational tongue twisters, she also broke down sexist rules, including one that forbade walking on the Senate floor in 1993 with pants. She later told CNN it was such a “seismographic event” that she had to tell the West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, the Democratic leader.

“When Senator Mikulski decided that she was going to wear pants while casting her votes, it was the rule that had to change, not her,” said Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray in a statement.

For now, Mikulski seems content to let the next stage of the fight play out without making waves publicly.

“I want Maryland to decide who they think is best to represent them now,” she told TIME. “I was the bridge that brought them over from the twentieth century into the twenty first, being the strong advocate for social justice, but certainly for jobs and promoting really the kind of jobs that would be a part of the innovation economy as we said goodbye to some of the others.”

TIME White House

The Meanest Tweets Obama Didn’t Read

You ain't seen nothing yet

Correction appended, March 13

Keeping with a tradition on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show, President Obama read mean tweets about himself Thursday night. But compared to what he’s gotten from Congress, the tweets were fairly tame.

Obama himself made that point.

“I have to say, those weren’t that mean,” he told Kimmel after the segment. “I’ve gotta tell you, you should see what the Senate says about me all the time.”

For example: After the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in France, Obama was criticized for not going there to show his support.

Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber tweeted: “Even Adolph [sic] Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons.” Weber later deleted the tweet and apologized.

But it wasn’t the first time. In a series of other tweets from January 2014, Weber called Obama the “Kommandant-in-Chief,” a “socialist dictator” and suggested that POTUS stands for “Poor Obama Trashed U.S.”

Some of the tweets aren’t so much mean as they are cutting in good sport. After Obama joked during the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2013 that Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell wouldn’t be a good drinking buddy, McConnell tweeted a picture of himself having a beer with an empty chair for Obama, complete with a glass of red wine and the message “Greetings from Coal Country!”

And sometimes the mean tweets are friendly fire. Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur once jokingly tweeted (and deleted) as the stock market hit a now high that Obama was the “worst socialist ever.”

Still, most of the meanest tweets come from off Capitol Hill. Businessman Donald Trump is a serial offender when it comes to saying mean things about Obama. Here he is blaming Obama for a bad call in the Super Bowl:

And there’s this:

And this:

Even KitchenAid, a company that makes kitchen appliances, accidentally tweeted something mean about Obama. In 2012 someone tweeting for the company posted about the president’s grandmother, who died before he took office, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’. #nbcpolitics.” The company swiftly apologized for the tweet.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described a series of tweets by Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber. The tweets were sent in January 2014 and they are still online.

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