Can Tammy Duckworth Take Her Child On The Senate Floor? She's Making Sure The Rules Change

Monica Busch
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Earlier this month, Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to give birth while still in office. But having a young child while also being a working senator has posed some struggles — namely, that children aren't allowed in certain parts of the chamber. But if a new resolution passes, as it is expected to, the Senate will allow Sen. Duckworth's baby on the floor, making it much easier for the second-time mother to do her job.

According to Politico, Sen. Duckworth submitted the resolution because the Senate is expected to vote on some serious issues in the near future. Votes, however, are not often straightforward, and the entire process of getting to a finalized vote can be marked by delays. Sen. Duckworth reportedly does not believe she can reasonably be away from her newborn daughter for such a long period of time. Her daughter, Maile Pearl, was born on April 9.

“As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a senator can be, I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere," Duckworth said in a statement after giving birth to her daughter.

Duckworth's need to fight for her right to have her newborn baby at work with her highlights just how predominantly male the government truly is. But as more and more women sign up to run for elected office, family-oriented procedural rules will likely have to change with the times.

"For me to find out that there are issues with the United States Senate's rules where I may not be able to vote or bring my child onto the floor of the Senate when I need to vote because we ban children from the floor, I thought, 'Wow, I feel like I'm living in the 19th century instead of the 21st,' " Duckworth told CNN.

If passed, the resolution would bring the Senate up to speed with the House which, according to NPR, already allows children on its floor. At least one representative has already expressed her support of Duckworth's initiative.

"We need more women and moms in Congress — both in the House and in the Senate," Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement to Kaiser Health News. "So we should make sure that the congressional workplace reflects the needs of working moms. The House allows children on the House floor, and I believe it should be allowed in the Senate too."

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Politico reports that, while Duckworth is fighting for her right to bring her infant to important votes, the challenge of maternity leave still looms. Duckworth reportedly intends to take an unofficial 12-week paid leave, but she still plans to be present for important votes.

"I can’t technically take maternity leave," Duckworth on a recent episode of Politico's Women Rule podcast. "Because if I take maternity leave, then I won’t be allowed to sponsor legislation or vote during that time period."

Whether or not Duckworth is able to vote could have a serious impact on whether or not Congress passes certain legislation. Currently, the Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, including two independents. If Duckworth wasn't allowed to vote, that could put the Democrats at a significant disadvantage for any votes expected to fall along party lines.

One major vote expected to take place by the end of the month concerns Mike Pompeo's confirmation as secretary of state. As the senatorial rules stand now, being physically present for that vote could pose a major challenge for Duckworth, who can't reasonably predict how long the voting procedure might take.

The rule change is expected to be approved as soon as early next week, according to Politico. That should provide Duckworth enough time to be present for a vote on Pompeo.