Babies Will Now Be Allowed On The Senate Floor Thanks To Tammy Duckworth, & It's A Historic Change
Here's something that really shouldn't be a big deal: babies will now be allowed on the Senate floor, because Senators are often parents, and parents have to take care of their kids, no matter what they do for a living. It seems like a no-brainer, and as such, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the rule change spurred by Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who just became the first senator in U.S. history to give birth while in office. Duckworth's daughter, Maile Pearl, was born earlier this month, and the Senator chose to take her maternity leave in D.C. rather than at home, just in case she needs to pop in to work for a vote. Talk about commitment.
But although everyone's publicly supportive of the rule change, there was reportedly plenty of grumbling behind the scenes, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told the Chicago Tribune that during the two months she held private discussions with her colleagues about the idea, that grumbling "came mostly from older senators, and mostly from men." How very curious. I wonder why. The rule will apply not just to Duckworth, or women for that matter, but any senator with a child under 1 year old, because it's 2018, and you can be both a parent and an employee these days, regardless of gender.
While none of the senators would admit on record that they were opposed to allowing babies on the floor, a suspicious amount of them had a "friend" who took issue with it. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts said he's "not going to object to anything like that, not in this day and age," before adding, "I don't think [allowing babies on the floor] is necessary," according to the Associated Press. The Senate requires members to vote in person, and Roberts' proposed solution was for parents of babies to hide in a cloakroom and just poke their head out to vote. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton also had "no problem" with the new rule, the Associated Press reported, but he knows that *some people* do, so he agreed that "the cloakroom might be a good compromise."
The cloakroom is not a good compromise, however, because it's not wheelchair-accessible. That's not just a hypothetical concern, but a practical one, as Duckworth became a double-amputee and lost partial use of an arm after serving in Iraq, and now gets around primarily by using a wheelchair. Some senators reportedly suggested making an exception for Duckworth, but why? You shouldn't have to endure life-altering injuries while serving the country in order to get a modicum of respect from your colleagues.
This really shouldn't be such a big deal, either. Former Australian Parliament member Larissa Waters made international headlines last June when she became the first MP to move a motion while feeding a baby, but according to the Telegraph, 14-week-old Alia Joy had already become a fixture in Parliament by then, regularly attending with her mom and not bothering a damn soul. In fact, the paper wrote, when Waters spoke, she "appeared to be warmly welcomed and was greeted with smiles in the chamber." Now that's decorum.
And then over here, we've got Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch bleating, "But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?" Oh no, not 10 babies! Well, Senator, those 10 babies would each be in the care of a parent, they'd be out numbered by adults 10 to one, outnumbered by old men about four to one, and why exactly are you so scared of babies when you have 14 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren? Haven't you been in a room with babies before? What exactly did they do to you? Well, we'll soon find out what that's like, I guess, as more old men in the Senate are replaced by people of child-bearing age. Now, until then, they can start wringing their hands about the next controversial issue, according to CNN: should those babies have to adhere to a dress code?