Babies in the Senate chamber are now a thing. And some senators aren't exactly sure how that's going to go.
The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to allow babies of members into the chamber, and the first one arrived Thursday — Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the first and only senator in U.S. history to give birth while in office, brought her two-week-old daughter Maile Pearl to work with her at the Capitol.
(Working from home isn’t an option at the Senate, which requires votes to be cast in person. It’s pretty difficult to leave a newborn baby anyway, especially for women who breastfeed.)
Duckworth, 50, came back from maternity leave saying the vote, which she'd requested, helps “bring the Senate into the 21st century.” Earlier Thursday, she’d tweeted her preparation for heading into the Senate, including how she plans to help her baby follow the Senate-floor dress code.
“I’m not sure what the policy is on duckling onesies, but I think we’re ready,” she tweeted.
While no one officially objected to having babies around, the vote revealed some holes in parenting knowledge and prompted some strange suggestions for accommodating the new blood.
Just use the cloakroom
Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, father of three and grandfather of six, said he thinks Duckworth should just vote from the cloakroom.
“I'm not going to object to anything like that, not in this day and age,” Roberts told the Chicago Tribune, adding that a person can totally just stand in the door of the cloakroom and vote. “I've done it.”
Roberts may have voted that way in the past, but he wasn’t balancing an infant on his hip.
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, a father of two, also said the “cloakroom might be a good compromise.”
Both men might have forgotten Duckworth is a double-amputee due to injuries she sustained while serving in Iraq, and gets around using a wheelchair. The cloakroom isn’t actually wheelchair-accessible.
What if there are 10 babies?
Sen. Orrin Hatch said he had absolutely “no problem” with allowing children under 1 year old on the floor, except…..
“What if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?” he asked.
Unsurprisingly, this led to quite a barrage of Twitter jokes.
Hatch responded on Twitter, saying, “I believe we should make it as easy as possible for elected representatives to balance their jobs as elected officials with their even more important jobs as parents.”
Marco Rubio chimed in with a dig at his colleagues. “Why would I object to it?” the Florida Republican told the Associated Press. “We have plenty of babies on the floor.”
And Republican Sen. Ben Sasse took the same approach in a statement on Facebook that all babies are narcissists — they’ll fit right in with the Senate.
What about diaper bags?
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told the AP he was happy about the unanimous vote, and excited to see “a diaper bag next to one of these brass spittoons which sit on the floor — thank goodness, never used.”
Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe jumped in and added that he thought Durbin was way off.
“They don’t use diaper bags anymore. They’re disposable diapers,” Inhofe said.
He’s right that most parents use disposable diapers, but diaper bags are generally used to carry clean diapers and other supplies. They’re very much still in use.