A Senator Brings Her Newborn After Lawmakers Changed Their Rules
Maile Pearl Bowlsbey is just over a week old and already is helping force more change in the Senate than most seasoned lawmakers can even dream. On Thursday she joined her mother, Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, on the Senate floor for a vote.
The newborn’s appearance was made possible by a unanimous decision by the Senate on Wednesday evening to change its rules, which typically allow only senators and a handful of staff into the Senate chamber during votes. Now, lawmakers can bring along children under one-year-old.
In response to the change on Wednesday, Duckworth thanked her colleagues for helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work. She had also added that these policies aren’t just a women’s issue, they are a common-sense economic issue. Duckworth gave birth to Maile, her second child, on April 9 and wanted to keep her newborn nearby when she is doing her job as a senator.
How They Changed the Rules
Alabama Republican Richard Shelby said even before the rule change that they ought to accommodate people as much as they can. He further added that The Senate has evolved slowly for a long time, but evolution is always going on. Rules Committee chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said some of that slow evolution might be because Duckworth is the first senator to ever give birth while in office.
There haven’t been many moms bringing little babies on the floor in the Senate in the past because there haven’t been moms having babies in the Senate. This is what Blunt told reporters on Tuesday. Blunt also said he had been working with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, to approve the measure quickly and without opposition from any senators.
Every day, moms and dads have to balance being great parents and successful professionals, and workplaces need to recognize that reality. Klobuchar further said that The United States Senate should be no exception. The bill seems like a fairly common-sense accommodation that reflects the Senate as it is today — with 23 women and a handful of young parents.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the rule is also narrowly written to allow parents of children under a year to perform their duties without being separated from their children and to allow the business of the Senate to go on uninterrupted. Collins said it was a very practical debate of how does a new mother manage to vote and yet take care of her child. She adds that now, obviously, it would interfere with our ability to get our work done if we had lots of toddlers crawling around.
The road was all uphill because of Past traditions
All of this might seem like a pretty simple and logical change, but the Senate is often a slow, tradition-bound place. The rules are so hard to change that it took Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., years to get his fellow senators to allow him to bring a laptop to the floor to keep track of tricky amendments during a budget debate. Enzi also said that he kept on receiving complaints because of this.
They said he was disrupting the process of the Senate, and one senator even told him that he couldn’t type, and if Enzi was typing he’d feel compelled to explain to his constituents that he couldn’t. Enzi said that allowing a parent to bring her infant along so she can follow through with Senate duties is an entirely different, more important issue. Plus, he says, Duckworth’s argument has another impressive edge: “Mothers are more persuasive than men.”
The US Senate, like every other governing body in the world, needs to adjust to the times we live in today. More women are going being in the Senate, and many them might give birth and their children will need them. As long as the presence of the children doesn’t hinder the proceedings, there is no reason to disallow such a thing.
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