Earlier this month, Senator Tammy Duckworth made history when she became the first U.S. senator to give birth while holding office. Her joyous news brought up a vital question, though - would the legislator be able to bring her newborn daughter onto the Senate floor?
There are many Senate rules that make caring for an infant and lawmaking nearly incompatible, CNN notes: being unable to hand the child over to a staffer, being unable to vote via proxy, and being unable to bring the baby onto the floor.
In a historic move, though, the Senate unanimously voted last night to allow newborns on the floor for votes. The rule change allows senators to bring a child under 12 months of age onto the Senate floor and breastfeed them during votes.
Family-friendly workplace policies aren’t just a women’s issue, they are a common-sense economic issue— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) 18 April 2018
Following this, Tammy thanked her fellow lawmakers 'from both sides of the aisle' for 'helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognising 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," noted Tammy.
Indeed, it's an issue that's still debated here in Ireland. A number of TDs and senators recently spoke up about the fact that there is no official breastfeeding policy in the House of the Oireachtas. As well, the only people allowed inside the Dáil and Seanad chambers are elected members and officials.
This new change in US Senate rules is a welcome step towards it becoming a more inclusive workplace and hopefully will compel others to follow their lead.
"Every day moms and dads balance being great parents and successful professionals, and workplaces need to recognise that reality,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a statement.
“The United States Senate should be no exception. We are proud to have Senator Tammy Duckworth — working mom to a newborn — among our ranks and I’m glad the Rules Committee was able to swiftly make this historic rule change for her and future senators.”
I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, particularly Senator Klobuchar, @RoyBlunt & @SenatorDurbin, for helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work → https://t.co/jOm9BITC6n pic.twitter.com/XR55Dt8XKL— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) 18 April 2018
Before the rule was voted on, a number of questions about babies' presence on the floor were asked - and some of them were more than a little funny.
Senators asked if Tammy would change the baby's diapers on the Senate floor (no), whether the baby would be required to wear a Senate pin (also no - so dangerous!), and if the baby would have to conform to the Senate dress code (another no).
Overall, it seems like the US Senate is making progress with this new policy, and many welcome the presence of Tammy's daughter Maile and future babies on the floor.
"Perhaps the cry of a baby will shock the Senate at times into speaking out and even crying out on the issues that confront our nation and the world," Sen. Dick Durbin reflected.