Thursday November 29, 2012 | 03:25 PM

WASHINGTON – Sen. Olympia Snowe still has more than a month left in her term but the farewells have already started.

On Thursday, Snowe attended the final scheduled hearing of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, of which she is the senior Republican member. Snowe’s colleagues on the committee praised her work on behalf of the businesses community and her willingness to work across the aisle.

“I hope that as you leave, the example that you set is one that all of us can follow,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. Shaheen especially credited Snowe with helping save the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during the last round of base closings, which in turn helped protect jobs at small businesses throughout New England.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who co-chairs the committee, went through a long list of committee accomplishments in the years since she and Snowe became the first women to simultaneously hold the senior positions in a House or Senate committee.

Landrieu credited Snowe with helping expand federal programs that support small businesses, including nearly doubling the amount of small business lending funds to community banks in recent years.

Snowe, a former committee chair herself when Republicans were in the majority, joked that she has served on congressional small business committees longer than some of her senior staffers have been alive. Snowe was first elected to Congress in 1978.

“I can’t think of any higher priority than being a megaphone for the 150,000 small business in my state of Maine and, of course, the more than 30 million small businesses nationwide," she said in opening remarks. "As we all know, small businesses are willing to take risks that others won’t. They have their fingers on the pulse of the local community.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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