When Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled up to the Port of Baltimore Monday, he had effusive praise for the Maryland congressional delegation and especially for the state's senior senator, even mentioning that he once fetched coffee for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
"When I was in the Senate, I got her coffee, I did whatever she wanted me to do, even though I was much senior to her, but I know where the power lies," Biden said of the Maryland Democrat.
Biden was among the longest-serving senators in the nation's history at the time of his departure to be sworn-in as vice president. Mikulski holds the distinction of being the longest-serving woman in the Senate.
"It never affected Barbara. It never crossed even her mind I was senior to her. It never crossed her mind that anyone is senior," Biden said. "And anybody who thinks being chairman ... having the chairman of the Appropriations Committee in your state is not a good thing, well, they don't understand anything."
The earmarks that were the bread-and-butter of old-school Appropriations chairmen are currently out of favor, but there are other ways to assert influence.
As chairwoman of the Appropriations panel, Mikulski is currently in the thick of the debate over to how best keep the federal government's discretionary programs funded beyond the end of September with a continuing resolution.
Biden was speaking at the Port of Baltimore to announce a $10 million federal transportation grant to help enhance the operations of the port, which Maryland will match with $19 million of its own.