Infants Will Now Be Allowed On The Senate Floor During Votes

Senator Tammy Duckworth recently became the first sitting U.S. senator to birth a child while in office. And now, Duckworth has ushered in another first. She submitted a resolution to allow lawmakers to bring infants onto the Senate floor, and it was passed by unanimous consent. It’s the first Senate rule change since 1977, when service dogs were first allowed on the floor.

The Senate chamber is a historically exclusive space, and only select people are allowed in, such as the president and vice president, members of Congress, the mayor of Washington, D.C. and senators’ staff members. But with a record 23 women serving in the Senate, it makes sense to allow women with new babies, particularly those who may be breastfeeding, to have their infants with them in the event they need to cast an important vote. Duckworth herself is taking her maternity leave in Washington, D.C. rather than in Illinois so that she’s available to cast her vote if necessary.

senate vote photo
Getty Images | Drew Angerer

“These late-night votes happen more than people think,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar told Slate. “And if you don’t have a baby sitter, it can be hard. If you want people with normal lives, they need to be able to bring their infants.”

Although senators had a lot of questions regarding the implications of the new rule, such as whether diapers would be changed on the floor, they ultimately saw the value in the decision.

“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, the second ranking Democrat in the Chamber, told CNN.

senate chamber photo
Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla

For her part, Duckworth expressed gratitude for a decision that will allow her to effectively do her job while simultaneously balancing her new role as a mother.

“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.

On April 19, Duckworth shared a sweet photo of the outfit she picked out for her baby, Maile, to wear for her first time joining mom on the Senate floor. In the caption, Duckworth joked that she planned to dress Maile in a jacket so that she would not “violate the Senate floor dress code (which requires blazers).”