There were some (mostly) male senators who had questions about the Senate allowing babies onto the Upper Chamber's floor. Perhaps most notably, Sen. Orrin Hatch fretted over a a hypothetical situation of there being 10 babies in the Senate, but Sen. Amy Klobuchar's response was pure shut-down gold.
The concerns came as the Senate prepared to vote on the rule change after Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office. As Senate rules require votes to be taken in person, the reasoning was that leaving a newborn can be a struggle for new parents — especially breastfeeding moms, so why not allow babies to accompany their mom or dad for a quick vote?
Klobuchar has been crafting the legislation for months, and she fielded a bevy of inquiries about the entrance of wee humans into Senate proceedings. And when Hatch asked, "But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?," she had a perfect response.
"We could only wish we had 10 babies on the floor," she said. "That would be a delight."
She went on to say that 10 babies would indicate an influx of younger senators, a trend many Americans would likely appreciate. The current average age in the Senate? That would be 61 years.
Speaking about her colleagues' initial response to the now-passed rule change, Klobuchar told the Chicago Tribune that reactions split more along generational lines than partisan ones. Most of the hesitations were voiced by older senators, and most came from men.
Some of the male senators wanted Duckworth to vote from the cloakroom, noting that Senate rules allow for that. However, Duckworth lost both her legs during a military tour in Iraq in 2004, and the cloakroom is not wheelchair-accessible.
Besides the qualms apparently kindled for Hatch at the thought of 10 babies in the Senate, there were other worries about what might happen if infants join senators during floor votes. In a phone interview with Vogue, Klobuchar shared some of the more absurd questions she faced in the pre-vote process. She was asked if baby diapers would be changed on the Senate floor and whether or not the baby would be subjected to Senate rules on attire, as in: would babies have to wear dress shoes? According to Klubachar, babies will be permitted to stick to typical infant dress code (no fancy shoes required).
For many, allowing new parents to bring their babies onto the Senate floor for votes (the provision stops once a child turns 1) probably seems like an easy enough issue. However, the Senate — more so than the House of Representatives — often displays a fierce fealty to its traditions. NPR's Kelsey Snell notes that it took Sen. Mike Enzi several years to get Senate approval to bring a laptop into the Upper Chamber.
Enzi told NPR about some of the pushback to his wild idea of using a laptop during Senate proceedings. "One senator told me that he couldn't type, and if I was typing he'd feel compelled to explain to his constituents that he couldn't," he said.
During her Wednesday speech urging the Senate to pass the rule change, Klobuchar said, "The truth is, too many American moms aren't in positions of power to change the rules, which is why it is so important for those of us who are in position of power to be champions of change, not just here in the Senate but in workplaces across the country."
Duckworth has a penchant for making history. She is the first disabled woman to win a Senate election, and she's the first Asian American congresswoman to win in her home state of Illinois. And now, after being the first American woman to give birth as a sitting senator, she will almost certainly be the first senator to take advantage of the new rule change and have her baby daughter join her on the Senate floor.