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Former Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, handled the slights with stoicism. But his death last year put the more aggressive Mikulski in charge of a committee whose previous leaders have included powerhouses such as Warren Magnuson, D-Wash., Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

The appropriators’ status has diminished in recent years, and Mikulski took over after two more senior members surprisingly passed on the job.

Look for her to build on the momentum and try to restore the influence of a group of lawmakers once known as the Capitol’s Cardinals.

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EDITOR’S NOTE - Andrew Taylor has reported on Congress since 1990.