The Senate passed without dissent Wednesday a new rule that will allow senators to be on the chamber floor with children under the age of 1, a change that followed Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s giving birth to a girl this month.
Duckworth (D-Ill.), 50, became the first senator to give birth while serving in the Senate, sparking a debate about rules forbidding children from being on the floor while the chamber is in session. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) adopted children while serving in the Senate, but the issue did not resonate in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
With 23 women now serving in the Senate, the issue quickly was resolved. Duckworth has been home since giving birth, and her colleagues realized that it might be easier for her to work if they changed the rules.
“I would like to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, particularly those in leadership and on the Rules Committee, for helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work,” Duckworth said in a statement.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said: “Being a parent is a difficult job, and the Senate rules shouldn’t make it any harder.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said, “Every day moms and dads balance being great parents and successful professionals, and workplaces need to recognize that reality.”
The House has long allowed children — of any age — to be on the floor during legislative business as long as they are accompanied by their parents.
Even longtime senators decided it would not be disruptive to have Duckworth’s child on the floor. “Babies on the Senate floor? We got a lot of crybabies on there now,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), an 81-year-old serving his 22nd year in the Senate.