Duckworth Votes with 10-Day-Old Baby After Senate Rules Change

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), with her baby Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, leaves the Senate floor after a voting on Capitol Hill on April 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — The first senator to give birth while in office today became the first senator to vote while holding a baby.

The Senate unanimously agreed to change its no-kids-allowed rule in a Wednesday night vote, but only for kids under the age of 1.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), married to fellow Iraq war veteran Major Bryan W. Bowlsbey, gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, 10 days ago.

Duckworth wanted to return to vote against former Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-Okla.) nomination to be NASA administrator. Bridenstine was confirmed 50-49, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) absent.

One of the reported suggestions to get around the rule was letting Duckworth vote with her baby in the cloakroom, but that area isn’t wheelchair-accessible. The senator lost her legs in Iraq in 2004 when the Black Hawk she was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

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.”

“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,” she said. “These policies aren’t just a women’s issue, they are a common-sense economic issue.”

Nine other women have given birth while in Congress, all in the House.

“Being a parent is a difficult job, and the Senate rules shouldn’t make it any harder,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “I’m glad we were able to get this done to address the needs of parents in the Senate.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) mused that it “would do us good, every once in a while, to see a pacifier next to the antique inkwells on our desks, or a diaper bag next to a brass spittoon that hasn’t been used in decades.”

“Perhaps the cry of a baby will shock this Senate into speaking up and even crying out on the issues that confront our nation and world,” Durbin said. “Maile Pearl, welcome to the world — and welcome to the United States Senate.”