Senate Changes Rules To Allow Babies On The Senate Floor

Tammy Duckworth recently became the first sitting Senator to give birth. Thanks to a rule change, she'll be allowed to bring her baby on the floor of the Senate if she needs to.

Earlier this month, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office and yesterday the Senate voted to change its rules to allow babies on the floor of the Senate:

It’s official: Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s baby will be allowed on the Senate floor.

The Senate on Wednesday night unanimously approved a change to its rules to permit the children of senators onto the floor until they are 1 year old.

Duckworth, the Illinois Democrat who this month became the first senator in U.S. history to give birth in office, pushed for the rule change during her pregnancy. She gathered support among other lawmakers who wanted to send a symbolic message that the Senate, like all workplaces, should make small accommodations for working parents.

The proposal originally generated some fussiness in the typically staid U.S. Senate, which is bound by tradition and seldom changes its rules.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, said some fellow lawmakers questioned why Duckworth couldn’t vote from the Senate cloakroom while holding her baby, but the cloakroom is not wheelchair accessible — an issue for someone like Duckworth, who lost both her legs serving in the Iraq War.

Some senators also asked whether a staffer could hold the baby while Duckworth votes, but conflict of interest rules prevent her from having federal employees babysit her child. There was also concern that the Senate would devolve into the more-rowdy House, where children are allowed; in response, the rule was limited to allowing only children under the age of one.

Klobuchar said the rule is largely designed to aid lawmakers when last-minute votes are called and child care can’t be found.

“We vote late into the night; we vote at unpredictable times,” she said. “It doesn’t work with a newborn.”

Duckworth, in a statement, said the rule changes helps “bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work.”

“By ensuring that no Senator will be prevented from performing their constitutional responsibilities simply because they have a young child, the Senate is leading by example and sending the important message that working parents everywhere deserve family-friendly workplace policies,” she said.

A baby may even add some levity to the politically-charged chamber.

“I think it will do us good in the United States Senate, every once in a while, to see a pacifier next to the antique inkwells on our desk or a diaper bag next to one of these brass spittoons which sits on the floor, thank goodness, never used,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

(…)

It’s unclear how soon Duckworth might take advantage of the new rules. She told POLITICO before Maile Pearl Bowlsbey was born that she planned to take an unofficial maternity leave but would return to the Senate when her vote was needed.

The Senate could vote next week on Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo. Veterans Affairs Secretary-designate Ronny Jackson could get a vote in the coming weeks, too.

As of now, the new rule marks only a baby step. Duckworth is the only senator with a child under 1 year old who might be able to take her child on the floor. But Klobuchar and other advocates say they hope there will soon be other senators who might have to make use of the accommodation.

First of all, congratulations are in order for Duckworth and her husband on the birth of their daughter and second child. Previously, Duckworth had given birth to the couple’s first child while serving in the House of Representatives but that was not a first as several other Congresswomen had given birth while serving, and the rules of that body actually allow members to bring their children on the floor as long as they are being orderly and not disruptive. In the case of the Senate, Duckworth is relatively young compared to other women who have been elected to the upper chamber of Congress so this is really the first opportunity the Senate has had to deal with this issue. It is, of course, a reasonable rule change that will allow Duckworth to continue her Senate duties as needed while taking care of a newborn.

Of course, some would argue that babies have always been allowed on the floor of the Senate, but those would be babies of the adult variety.

Update:brought baby Maile to the Senate floor Senator Duckworth took advantage of the new rule this afternoon when she to cast a vote against the nomination of Jim Bridenstine to be the new NASA Administrator.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    Of course, some would argue that babies have always been allowed on the floor of the Senate, but those would be babies of the adult variety.

    I was about to say …

    6
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s official: Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s baby will be allowed on the Senate floor.

    I wonder which party she will caucus with.

    4
  3. barbintheboonies says:

    What an achievement NOT Who really wants a crying kid in the work place? I certainly would not. Get child care like everyone else or resign.

    1
  4. @barbintheboonies:

    What a ridiculous comment.

    15
  5. Franklin says:

    @barbintheboonies: You didn’t read a word, did you?

    7
  6. Mister Bluster says:

    What an achievement NOT Who really wants a crying kid in the work place? I certainly would not. Get child care like everyone else or resign.

    Barb, you are a bigger whiner than that kid will ever be.

    12
  7. Mister Bluster says:

    Congratulations to my Senator from Illinois Tammy Duckworth!

    3
  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Tammy Duckworth rocks.
    barbintheboonies…not so much.

    1
  9. CSK says:

    Senator Duckworth’s principal problem will be fending off all her colleagues who want to cuddle that baby.

    4
  10. R. Dave says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I agree that Barbinthewoods’ point was not well-stated, but I don’t think the underlying point is ridiculous on its face. In the corporate world, bringing a young child into a meeting or conference setting would obviously be pretty heavily frowned upon, to say the least, because little kids are distracting and disruptive. Heck, people grumble and complain (usually offline) when you can hear kids being noisy in the background of a conference call because someone’s dialing in from home, let alone dealing with it in person. People who are particularly uptight and irritable about it are jerks, in my opinion, but the baseline assumption for most everyone in the business world is that kids don’t really belong at work. Not sure why the Senate (or House) should be considered an obvious exception to that.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some kids on my lawn whose Frisbee I need to go confiscate.

    3
  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    Seriously, guys, letting babies onto the floor of the Senate is not going to defeat Trump. If that was true, Octomom would be President now.

    (Am I doing this right?)

    7
  12. Neil Hudelson says:

    @R. Dave:

    In the corporate world, bringing a young child into a meeting or conference setting would obviously be pretty heavily frowned upon, to say the least, because little kids are distracting and disruptive.

    Yes, but those are places where serious people get work done. We are talking about the Senate here.

    14
  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @R. Dave:

    but the baseline assumption for most everyone in the business world is that kids don’t really belong at work. Not sure why the Senate (or House) should be considered an obvious exception to that.

    This isn’t a business tho, it’s the Senate where doing nothing of consequence is a daily occurrence. Seriously, anyplace that will allow Rand Paul to filibuster for hours is hardly a place where a crying baby will be much of a hindrance.

    6
  14. Mister Bluster says:

    I am always dismayed by customers in restaurants who complain about crying and screaming kids.
    At 70 I can’t hear as well as I did years ago. It’s not all that bad because I don’t want to hear what people have to say anyway.
    But I can hear babies crying just fine. It is music to my ears!

    1
  15. MarkedMan says:

    @R. Dave: I’ll respond to your well reasoned comment (and not to Barb’s cranky-pants one). As the article says, the purpose of this is not so she can bring her baby to work every day, but so she can respond to an emergency midnight vote or a 2am quorum call without having to leave the ol’ baby in the hallway.

    This compares with private industry. On more than one occasion I’ve had to call people in late at night or on a weekend for a signature so we could release a product as planned. People show up with all kinds of kids, spouses and even pets in tow. No one objects. Nowadays, of course, people can sign remotely. But it’s probably good the Senate doesn’t allow such innovation or someone would still be moving Strom Thurmond’s mummified hand to hit the remote.

    Side note: it is always a shock when someone you’ve never even seen take off so much as his impeccably tailored suit coat show up on the weekend with his pale knobby knees poking out from worn cargo shorts, blown out Docksiders without socks, and sporting an old Metallica t-shirt.

    8
  16. MarkedMan says:

    @Mister Bluster: I’m fortunate in being able to tune out crying-baby even it’s in the seat next to mine. And, for god’s sake, a good set of earplugs cost about $1.50 and if you don’t have a pair stashed someplace when you travel its your own darn fault. But there is one thing I always try to do when on a flight where a parent has been up with a screaming child and been getting the evil eye from the unsuccessful sleepers. I always try to discreetly sidle up to them on the way out and say “You show such patience when your child isn’t feeling well. You must be a great mom/dad.” Someone did this for my cousin once, when she was teetering on the edge of exhaustion and misery after an all night bus right from hell where her first born baby screamed the whole way. To this day she chokes up at how much it meant to her and that baby is thirty something.

    4
  17. Franklin says:

    @MarkedMan:

    As the article says, the purpose of this is not so she can bring her baby to work every day, but so she can respond to an emergency midnight vote or a 2am quorum call …

    This is why I asked if barbintheboonies had read any of the article. There were several good reasons listed why the Senate in particular needed this rule, like the above.

    So read the article, then note that her fellow Senators, the ones who are ACTUALLY affected by the rule, voted UNANIMOUSLY in favor of it. And then think to yourself, “what business do I have complaining about this?”

    7
  18. grumpy realist says:

    @barbintheboonies: Well, we see how much you are in to creating a supporting atmosphere for working mothers. Not.

    3
  19. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Seriously, guys, letting babies onto the floor of the Senate is not going to defeat Trump.

    But what if I really, really want babies on the floor of the Senate to defeat Trump?

    2
  20. Mister Bluster says:

    all night bus right from hell

    One of the more successful local Diners in Sleepytown is Laura’s, named after the owner Laura Harbaugh.
    Open at 7:00 am. Breakfast all day. Lunch starts at 11:00 am. Close at 2pm.
    Biscuits and gravy will knock your sox off!
    Patrons stand in line halfway down the block on cold winter mornings on the weekends to get in.
    Laura’s management style is pretty much hands off however I did see her lock the front door at 1:30 one time on a Sunday with a throng of people waiting outside because the kitchen was taking 45 min- 1 hr getting plates to the tables after the orders were turned in.
    I was at the coffee bar one Saturday morning next to the formal wooden dining room table that sits larger parties of 8 or so.
    On that day there was a family including mom, dad, kids, grandma and a squealing infant who was about to crack the windows.
    They tried everything.
    Pacifier? Ha! Throw that on the floor and cry louder!
    Sometimes when you play pass the baby around the table it will stop crying.* Not this one.
    Pats on the back to burp the child. Kid kept bawling like its finger was caught in the doorjamb.
    They took the infant outside at least once to quite down and it worked! Sort of, till they got back inside. Knee bounce had the baby laugh a little, almost, till that ride stopped and the kid wailed like someone fed it three alarm chili.
    As usual Laura monitored the situation from afar but her top concern as always was to see that the kitchen was up to speed and that The Egg-ceptional Omelettes and Ranch Potatoes got to the customers in short order.
    Finally Laura approached the table. “Would you like to try some crackers?” as she handed a couple of saltines to mom.
    Mom pushed a cracker into junior’s face. The kid stopped howling immediately!
    I don’t think she doped those biscuits but the way the little rascal fell asleep had me wondering.
    A veteran in the restaurant business knows all the tricks.

    *(Sometimes they will barf all over you so watch out!)

    2
  21. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    My issue is with the poor child. Imagine if sees Ted Cruz, I don’t know if she would survive if that happens.

    2
  22. CSK says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Better than having to lay eyes on Trump, I suppose.

    2
  23. Franklin says:

    @Mister Bluster: Reminds me of a massive hour-long tantrum that my first kid had once. Nothing including food seemed to help. But he finally just said, and I’m not kidding, he said, “I’m done” and was asleep within 30 seconds.

    Oh, it turns out he was quite dehydrated from an illness earlier in the week. Emergency doses of Pedialyte after he woke up helped immensely. But he had had every right to be crying.

    1
  24. de stijl says:

    Rep. Duckworth rocks pretty hard. The more she is around, the more I dig her.

    1
  25. de stijl says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    That was a good story and well told.

  26. de stijl says:

    The one thing that bums me about @barbintheboonies‘ comment was that there were no contractions so we didn’t get see those weird, ass-backwards flying apostrophes.

    Don`t tread on me

    1
  27. EddieInCArage says:

    I don’t have kids. Never have.

    However, I am thankful that I work in an industry (film and TV) that is much more progressive than most. At my office, we have kids, dogs, cats, the occasional ferret or Guinea Pig, and even a pig once. We encourage people to bring their kids and their animals. Today, in the office, we had a newborn kid, two three dogs (one of them mine), and a teenager, brought in by the location manager.

    It’s awesome.

    I LOVE we have that environment at work. Dogs and kids make a work environment much more casual and enjoyable.

    1
  28. gVOR08 says:

    Sen. Orrin Hatch was OK with this, but asked what it would be like if there were ten babies on the floor of the Senate. Devoid of self awareness.

  29. Mister Bluster says:

    @de stijl:..good story, well told…
    I am humbled by your words. Thank you.

    One element of the tale to consider is that it is not just based on actual events, it is a true story.
    The only thing I changed was the name of the Hash House.
    Also since the Preview function is out to lunch, I reread the item dozens of times before posting it. I can read the paragraphs several times without noticing any errors and then read it again and see a misspelling or a word left out.
    I fix that and tell myself to start from the top and read it at least twice to proof it again and often find some other change to make.
    I will be grateful when Preview is functional again.

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    @MarkedMan:..Sometimes, if I think of it, when a child is howling like a banshee I will say to the beleaguered parents: “I was at the Courthouse the other day to pay my property tax and I was crying just like that!”