Mikulski is the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., announced Monday that she will not seek re-election in 2016.

Mikulski, a Baltimore native who will complete her fifth term in office in January 2017, said during a speech at Fells Point in Baltimore that she would not seek a sixth term because she wants to focus the next two years on “fighting to give families a raise” by finishing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, making college more affordable as well as ensuring that Social Security remains a “guaranteed, lifetime and inflation-proof benefit” and that Medicare “is there when you need it.”

The longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history, and the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski said during her Monday speech that she will strive to make college more affordable with “permanent tuition tax breaks and by reforming Pell Grants, making them year round, easier to apply for and increasing them to cover more costs.” Families, she said, should also be able to refinance student loans at lower rates.

She noted that she would soon introduce her new bill, Debt for Duty, which provides student loan forgiveness in exchange for time spent volunteering.

“For me, service is about solving problems for my constituents. I could never put you or your needs on a back burner. With my own re-election on the horizon, I thought long and hard about how I want to spend the next two years — what is it I want to campaign for, for you or for me?” Mikulski said.

“I had to decide whether to spend my time fighting to keep my job or fighting for your job.”

Every day, she continued, “I want to wake up thinking about you — the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small-business owners and families. I want to give you 120% of my time with all of my energy focused on you and your future. Because it’s always been about you, never about me. That’s what it takes to be a good senator by my expectations and by my standards.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a Monday statement that Mikulski’s career “has been devoted to serving others. As a social worker in Baltimore, she fought for at-risk children and to protect seniors from abuse. On the Baltimore City Council, and during her nearly 40 years of service in the United States Congress, she has fought for struggling Americans, demanded women be paid equal pay for equal work and led in the fight to protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare for seniors.”

Mikulski, he continued, “is a trailblazer,” adding that as dean of the women of the Senate, she  “has been a mentor and friend to senators on both sides of the aisle. Through her work, she has helped a generation of women leaders rise in the Senate.”

— Check out Senator Says Spending Bill Ready Soon, Vows to Fight Social Security Cutters on ThinkAdvisor.