Mikulski hospitalized for tests after feeling tired

Senator plans to return to work within days

July 12, 2005|By Gwyneth K. Shaw and David Nitkin | Gwyneth K. Shaw and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski was hospitalized in Baltimore yesterday morning for tests after complaining of feeling tired, a spokeswoman said.

Mikulski, who will turn 69 on July 20, missed a Senate vote last night on a resolution expressing sympathy for the British people after the terrorist attacks in London last week. Her hospitalization comes as the Senate debates the 2006 homeland security budget - legislation Mikulski was involved in shaping as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A former government official who spoke with Mikulski's staff yesterday said the senator had been tired since the beginning of the month for no obvious reason and that her doctor wanted tests done to seek the cause.

Mikulski, a Democrat known for her tenacity and enthusiasm, was elected to a fourth six-year term in November. She is the most senior woman in the Senate and sits on the Senate Intelligence and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees in addition to the powerful appropriations panel.

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Democrat, said Mikulski's doctor sent her to Mercy Medical Center for diagnostic tests. Mikulski was expected to be released from Mercy within a couple of days and return to work, Schwartz said.

Mikulski was in touch with her staff yesterday, and the hospitalization didn't stop her office from announcing that she had signed on to a letter supporting full funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has been the target of spending cuts in Congress this year.

She joined Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey in asking Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican heading the subcommittee that oversees the CPB budget, to restore funding to several programs.

Elected in 1986, Mikulski is Maryland's junior senator - although not for long. Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes plans to retire rather than seek a sixth term next year. Sarbanes, 72, announced his retirement in March, pointing to his age as a primary reason.

Mikulski's absence comes at the beginning of a jam-packed legislative session for the Senate, which returned yesterday from a weeklong recess. Congress generally takes all of August off, so lawmakers have a long list of legislation to work on over the next three weeks, including key spending bills and final versions of the energy and highway bills.

The senator missed a few votes in January 1999 - during the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton - when she had an inflamed gall bladder removed.

A native of East Baltimore, Mikulski was a social worker before being elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1971. She won a seat in the House in 1976, and stayed there until she was elected to the Senate. She has been a dogged fighter for issues and projects important to her constituents, from health care to saving the Hubble Space Telescope.

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