A congressional measure to allow babies to be present on the floor during votes in the Senate passed unanimously on Thursday. The rule change allows parents to bring children under the age of one to the floor instead of being forced to miss important votes. The change is a huge win for Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who earlier this month became the first Senator in history to give birth while in office when she delivered her daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey.
Under current rules, Senators are required to be physically present on the Senate floor in order to participate in a vote. But until Thursday children were not allowed on the floor, meaning that a new parent like Duckworth would be forced to either miss essential votes or leave her daughter in order to cast her vote. With this new rule, Duckworth won’t be expected to make an unnecessary compromise just to do her job.
The new measure allowed Duckworth to become the first Senator to vote with a baby in tow. She brought Maile to the floor for her first political outing during a vote on the confirmation of James Bridenstine to be the next NASA administrator. Duckworth voted against Bridenstine’s confirmation.
“I think it’s historic, I think it’s amazing. It feels great,” Duckworth told reporters as she was entering the Capitol to cast her vote. “It is about time, huh?”
Despite the rule being voted through unanimously, the idea of voting-with-child did get some pushback from a few Senators, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch who asked, “But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?”
Other than some light opposition, the change was generally embraced by Senators from both parties. Senator Ben Sasse, a strong conservative from Nebraska, voiced his support for the decision, writing, “We, as a society, ought to be coming alongside new moms and dads and supporting them as best we can.”