Mikulski mending slowly, out of sight
One month after shattering her ankle, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski remains a patient at a Baltimore rehab center, where she is undergoing four or five hours of physical therapy a day.
A spokeswoman for the 73-year-old senator said Mikulski is expected to remain wheelchair bound until mid-September. She plans to return to Washington on Sept. 8, when the Senate reconvenes.
Mikulski fell as she was leaving her Baltimore church on July 19, fracturing her ankle in three places. She later underwent surgery at Mercy Medical Center and was moved to the rehab center on July 31.
The accident sidelined the nation's senior female senator during the final weeks leading up to the August recess. She made only one appearance at the Capitol, casting a vote in favor of the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
Since then, Mikulski has remained out of public view. Unlike some of her colleagues in Maryland and elsewhere, the Democrat has not held town hall meetings on overhauling the nation's health care system during Congress' month-long summer break.
Mikulski, who has been active on the issue as a member of the Senate Health committee, is considering several avenues of communication with state constituents over the next few weeks. Among the possibilities: a telephone town-hall meeting or a "virtual" town hall, in which she would field questions online, said spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight.
The senator may also call in to radio programs, said MacKnight, adding that nothing has been scheduled yet. Mikulski sees a staff member most days and has kept in touch with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Gov. Martin O'Malley, according to the aide.
Mikulski's prolonged healing process could have posed a political problem, by generating renewed interest in the veteran senator's health. In 2005, she was briefly hospitalized at Mercy for what was described as an irregular heartbeat and was put on medication to control it.
But for Mikulski to have a political problem, she'd have to face a credible challenger to her re-election next year.
Already running for another six-year term in the seat she's held since 1986, the senator has yet to attract serious opposition. A recent, national assessment of 2010 by the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report observed that the Senate election in Maryland isn't even on the Republican Party's radar screen.