Senate Might Vote on Duckworth Resolution to Allow Infants on the Floor

Rules change pushed by Illinois senator following birth of her second child

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., submitted a resolution that would permit infants on the Senate floor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate is known for resisting change, but senators might quickly and quietly update one of the most entrenched rules of who can be on the chamber floor.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting senator to give birth and submitted a resolution last week that would allow senators to bring a child under 1 year old onto the Senate floor during votes.

Fellow Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin, who technically introduced the measure on behalf of Duckworth, said Monday he had not heard objections to the resolution.

Duckworth said the chamber’s rules, which bar kids and strictly limit staff and others on the Senate floor, is a hurdle for working parents and would make it harder for her to vote.

In a March interview with The Guardian, Duckworth indicated she would be seeking to bring Senate rules in line with those of some other national legislatures.

She said the old rule, “means that I can’t do what female legislators have done in other countries, where they’re breastfeeding, sitting at their desks waiting for a vote.”

Duckworth likened her effort to change the rules regarding small children in the Senate to the crusade decades earlier by a group of female senators to get a women’s restroom installed in 1993.

Under the old rules, it might’ve been possible for the infant, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, to be near the Senate floor, but not actually in the chamber.

And particularly for late night Senate sessions — which is when senators usually cast their most significant votes — not changing the rules might have required the presence of a relative or other person to serve as a baby sitter.

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