The U.S. Senate will soon be a welcome place for children under the age of one, a new change made to better support senators who're caring for their infant children. Specifically, on Wednesday, the Senate voted to allow Tammy Duckworth's newborn baby to be brought with her to the chamber floor in a move that will benefit lawmakers who've just become parents.
The resolution passed, according to The Hill, with unanimous consent, meaning there wasn't a single senator who spoke out in opposition. It's not hard to see why, because being able to care for your infant and still cast votes on important pieces of legislation isn't exactly a controversial proposition.
Duckworth herself advanced the resolution after giving birth to a baby girl last week, becoming the first sitting U.S. senator to ever do so. Minnesota's Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar reportedly joined with Missouri's Republican senator Roy Blunt to fast-track it out of the rules committee, so to ensure that Duckworth won't have to miss votes in order to care for her child.
Senate rules dictate that you have to actually be present in the chamber in order to cast a vote, which means not being allowed to bring a baby along could potentially imperil a senator's ability to do their job. That won't be the case anymore, however, thanks to this new resolution. Duckworth is taking a maternity leave, but has still committed to showing up to cast important votes.
Previously, newborn babies were not allowed on the Senate floor, a rule which speaks to the Senate's longstanding status as a male-dominated environment. To be clear, the resolution draws no distinctions about the gender of the parent ― it just as easily allows male senators to bring their newborn children along with them, too.
According to The New York Daily News, when Klobuchar spoke privately to other senators about allowing babies on the Senate floor, she got a bit more push-back on the matter than Wednesday's unanimous consent might suggest.
Some senators reportedly argued that Duckworth could simply vote from the Senate cloakroom rather than enter the Senate chamber, which is allowed. But Duckworth is a double-amputee dating back to her service in the Iraq war, and the cloakroom is not wheelchair accessible. Some senators were also reportedly concerned at the prospect of the baby getting a diaper change or being breastfed on the Senate floor; Klobuchar has said that Duckworth has no intention of doing either.
Accordingly to Klobuchar, the majority of the people resistant to the rules change were older male senators, although none were willing to publicly declare themselves opposed to it. In fact, as Quartz detailed, when Klobuchar asked a group of four "older" senators if they were concerned about breastfeeding in the Senate ― one of whom she knew had raised the issue ― they didn't come clean about it, instead denying they had any issues with it.
“I poked them in the back and said ‘I hear you had a question about breastfeeding on the floor’?” Klobuchar said. “They all said ‘No, no, no.’"
The baby, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, is Duckworth's second child with her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey. Her other daughter, Abigail, was born in 2014. As previously mentioned, no other serving U.S. Senator has given birth while in office, although that could start to change if the average age of the institution were to decline ― as it stands now, the average U.S. senator is approximately 61 years of age. By way of comparison, the average member of the House of Representatives is slightly younger, at 57 years of age.