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Make Room For Baby: After Giving Birth, Duckworth Presses Senate To Bend Rules

This story additionally ran on NPR. This story may be republished without spending a dime (details).

It is so widespread that it probably can have occurred a minimum of as soon as someplace within the United States by the point you end studying this sentence. But it took greater than 230 years for it to occur to a senator.

On Monday, Tammy Duckworth grew to become the primary sitting senator to provide delivery, forcing Senate leaders to face how in poor health ready they might be to accommodate the wants of a brand new mom.

Duckworth, 50, an Illinois Democrat, and her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, introduced she had given delivery to a daughter, Maile (pronounced MY-lee) Pearl. Their first baby, Abigail, was born in 2014, whereas Duckworth was serving within the House of Representatives.

“As tough as juggling the demands of motherhood and being a Senator can be, I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent,” Duckworth stated in an announcement, “and my children only make me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hardworking families everywhere.”

Duckworth has made no secret of her bewilderment on the consideration she has obtained since saying her being pregnant in January. She seized the chance to name for adjusting Senate guidelines to accommodate new dad and mom.

They are adjustments that would assist make a pregnant senator much less outstanding sooner or later, particularly as document numbers of girls got down to run for workplace — a lot of them Democrats spurred by the Donald Trump presidency and Republican-controlled Congress, but in addition many motivated by the #MeToo motion to combat sexual harassment and assault. A recent Associated Press survey discovered that 309 Democratic and Republican girls to date had filed paperwork to run for the House, a brand new excessive.

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Duckworth has stated essentially the most problematic guidelines typically stop anybody who isn’t a senator, a chosen aide or different official from being on the Senate floor. Because a senator should be on the ground with a view to vote, she argued she needs to be allowed to deliver her younger baby together with her.

“For me to find out that there are issues with the United States Senate’s rules where I may not be able to vote or bring my child onto the floor of the Senate when I need to vote because we ban children from the floor, I thought, ‘Wow, I feel like I’m living in the 19th century instead of the 21st,’” she told CNN last month.

A spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to touch upon Duckworth’s proposal.

The Senate has bent its guidelines earlier than to make lodging for senators. Unsurprising for an establishment the place the common age in January 2017 was 61.Eight years, these examples are likely to favor senators battling severe diseases. Exceptions have additionally been made for members with restricted mobility. In 1997, for example, some steps on the Senate ground had been changed with a ramp to help newly elected Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a disabled veteran who used a wheelchair.

Bill Dauster, who suggested Democrats on Senate process for many years earlier than retiring final 12 months, stated senators may ask their colleagues for permission, with unanimous approval, to deliver aides onto the ground. For occasion, some senators have introduced folks to push their wheelchairs. Duckworth could possibly observe that instance together with her new child, he stated.

“I think it would be wonderful theater if she went to the floor, asked consent that I be allowed to bring my infant child to the floor for brief periods of time for the rest of the session of Congress,” Dauster stated, “and see who objects.”

Like the United States, Congress has no blanket coverage on parental depart, permitting senators and representatives to set their very own workplace coverage. Duckworth affords her employees 12 weeks of parental depart and plans to take an equal period of time. She will maintain in touch together with her workplace and return for shut votes, stated Sean Savett, her spokesman.

The lingering stigma amongst some voters in opposition to feminine lawmakers with younger youngsters could make it arduous to take prolonged depart, although a number of candidates have been tackling that head-on. At least two women running for office this year have footage of themselves breastfeeding of their marketing campaign adverts.

Those difficulties, together with the calls for of motherhood that persist even at this time, imply many ladies have postponed or dominated out a profession in politics.

“We’re asking women, in some senses, to take on a third part-time job,” stated Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “And so what we’ve seen, still, is women are more likely to wait until they’re a bit older to start in politics, which has implications for where they end up in politics.”

Walsh identified that when moms do run, they carry their distinctive perspective with them to Congress. After having her first daughter, Duckworth introduced legislation that may guarantee secure, clear and handy lactation rooms in large- and medium-sized airports. Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), the mom of twins who at 38 grew to become the youngest lady elected to the Senate and later the primary lady to chair the Senate agriculture committee, championed dietary faculty lunches within the late 1990s.

While she is the primary within the Senate, Duckworth is among 10 women who’ve given delivery whereas serving in Congress, 5 of whom are presently in workplace. (Betty Koed, the Senate historian, stated her workplace doesn’t maintain detailed data of senators’ youngsters, although a minimum of two former senators adopted children whereas in workplace: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Change has been gradual — and primarily female-driven. The Office of the Attending Physician opened Capitol Hill’s first designated lactation room in 2006. After Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) grew to become the primary feminine House speaker in 2007, she opened more lactation rooms — enabling staffers and members to higher adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that youngsters be breastfed for a minimum of the primary 12 months of life.

Duckworth is not any stranger to breaking new floor. She was one of many first girls serving within the Army to fly fight missions within the Iraq War, in keeping with her official biography, and later grew to become one of many first feminine fight veterans elected to Congress. She was additionally the primary feminine amputee elected to Congress, having misplaced each legs whereas serving in Iraq.

She can also be no stranger to the challenges dealing with a brand new mom in Congress. In 2014, pregnant together with her first baby and below a health care provider’s orders to not journey, Duckworth petitioned House Democratic leaders to allow her to vote by proxy in a round of internal party elections. They refused, citing the issues it may trigger when members request absences for different causes.

While bare shoulders may be unwelcome within the House, youngsters are usually not. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) brought along her then-7-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, because the House passed legislation in 2014 that helps these with disabilities and their households get monetary savings for his or her care.

The highest-ranking Republican lady in Congress, McMorris Rodgers can also be the one lady to provide delivery 3 times whereas serving. In Cosmopolitan magazine last fall, she described lacking three weeks of votes whereas her prematurely born son was in an intensive care unit, in addition to the letters from a couple of constituents who chastised her for working for re-election afterward.

“We need more women and moms in Congress — both in the House and in the Senate,” McMorris Rodgers stated in an announcement to Kaiser Health News. “So we should make sure that the congressional workplace reflects the needs of working moms. The House allows children on the House floor, and I believe it should be allowed in the Senate too.”

“My kids, and having all three of them while serving in the House, have made me a better legislator,” she added. “Being a mom makes politics real.”

This story additionally ran on NPR. This story may be republished without spending a dime (details).

KHN’s protection of girls’s well being care points is supported partly by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Emmarie Huetteman: ehuetteman@kff.org”>ehuetteman@kff.org, @emmarieDC

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