It Took the Senate 2 Centuries to Allow New Parents to Bring Infants to Chamber Floor

Illustration for article titled It Took the Senate 2 Centuries to Allow New Parents to Bring Infants to Chamber Floor
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The Senate is expected to change its rules to allow Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to bring her newborn onto the chamber floor, Politico reports.


Duckworth made history in early April when she became the first senator to give birth while in office. Before the birth of her daughter, Duckworth told Politico’s podcast Women Rule that she would take a modified 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, meaning that she would return to vote, especially on crucial issues where her vote is important to Senate Democrats. (Twelve weeks of paid parental leave is what Duckworth offers her own staff, there is no parental leave policy in place for senators.)

She pointed to archaic Senate rules that would, however, complicate her ability to perform her work duties while caring for her new infant. “I can’t technically take maternity leave,” Duckworth explained in mid-February. “Because if I take maternity leave, then I won’t be allowed to sponsor legislation or vote during that time period.”

She also noted that a host of Senate rules made it difficult for new mothers to navigate their workplace. Senators cannot cast vote via proxy and Senate rules bar children from entering the chamber floor. “If I have to vote, and I’m breastfeeding my child, especially during my maternity leave period, what do I do? Leave her sitting outside?” she asked.

Other Senate rules prevent Duckworth from quickly handing off her daughter to a staffer while she casts her vote. Rather, as the rules are currently written, Duckworth would essentially need a childcare worker or family member with her at all times, an uneasy solution for a mother who is breastfeeding or one who, like Duckworth, is already aware of the complicated needs—and whims— of an infant.

The current rules reflect the historically limited makeup of the Senate (the House allows children accompanied by members on its floor). Duckworth previously compared the rules and the Senate’s lack of flexibility for working mothers to 1993, the year women senators successfully lobbied for a women’s bathroom to be installed on the floor. “Not allowing children on the floor,” Duckworth told The Guardian earlier this month “means that I can’t do what female legislators have done in other countries, where they’re breastfeeding, sitting at their desks waiting for a vote.”


Now it looks as though Senate leaders have addressed the issue. Politico reports that Duckworth submitted a resolution that would allow senators to bring an infant under twelve months to the floor during votes. The resolution, introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), appears to have broad bipartisan support.

The Senate Rules Committee is expected to approve Duckworth’s resolution as early as this week. It only took around 230 years.


A Light Kind of Dark

This comment thread is depressing as fuck.

Signed, a 38 yo women who is terrified of what having a baby will do to her very on-track career, because even apparently other liberal women think I shouldn’t be able to continue on that track uninterrupted if I have a child.