Senator Maria Cantwell: A workhorse for the people and the Pacific Northwest in Congress

by Joel Connelly at

She is a product of the flatlands of the Midwest, born in Indianapolis and educated at Miami of Ohio, but Senator Maria Cantwell has summited Mount Rainier, the Grand Teton and Kilimanjaro, and ascended the power structure of Congress to chair the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Cantwell, D‑Washington, is on a roll of late.

Last summer, for instance, she shepherded the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act through the last Congress. It’s a law that gives a big financial boost to manufacture of semiconductors in the United States. It is designed to restore United States leadership on a technology pioneered in this country.

More recently, her defense of the great salmon fishery of Bristol Bay in Alaska has drawn attention and commendation.

Cantwell was the first to suggest use of the Clean Water Act to block a half-mile-wide copper and gold mine developers want to build between two of its prime salmon spawning streams. The Biden administration deployed the 1972 law earlier this month, effectively blocking construction of the proposed Pebble Mine.

Although on opposite sides of the battle over oil and gas drilling in the Arctic  Refuge, Cantwell and Senator Lisa Murkowski, R‑Alaska, teamed to campaign for construction of new heavy-duty icebreakers for use in Arctic waters.

Russia has a fleet of such cutters. The United States has just one remaining in operation. The ice has broken, so to speak, with construction underway on one vessel and design on a second.

Cantwell, sixty-four, is not one of the usual suspects seen on networks’ Sunday morning talk shows or shouting over talk radio. She gets stuff done by mastering details, quiet work with colleagues and by serving on a trio of A‑list Senate committees where legislation is put together – Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources, and Finance. She is the first Washington senator in more than half-a-century to serve on the Senate Finance Committee.

A bit of history is in order. Between 1953 and 1981, Washington was represented in Congress’ upper chamber by Senators Warren G. Magnuson and Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. The two Democrats were nicknamed “the gold dust twins.”