On Wednesday evening, the Senate unanimously voted to pass a resolution put forth by Sen. Tammy Duckworth to allow lawmakers with newborn babies to bring them onto the Senate floor during floor votes.
Duckworth — a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, junior United States senator for Illinois, and mother of two — is recently became the first US senator to give birth while in office and chose to take her maternity leave in Washington, DC instead of Illinois to be able to partake in floor votes.
Lawmakers must be physically present to participate in floor votes, which can be difficult for new mothers. The voting requirements prohibit votes by proxy and conflict of interest rules prevent new mothers from handing their babies off to staffers while they vote.
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Duckworth, who gave birth to her second child on April 9, had previously expressed concerns over how to participate in Senate votes while breastfeeding on maternity leave.
"If I have to vote, and I'm breastfeeding my child, especially during my maternity leave period, what do I do? Leave her sitting outside?" she said in February during a Politico "Women Rule" podcast.
But that will no longer be an issue.
In addition to allowing children under the age of 1 onto the floor, mothers will also be allowed to breastfeed during votes. The Senate's rule change means that "no Senator will be prevented from performing their constitutional responsibilities simply because they have a young child," Duckworth said in statement on Wednesday.
The trailblazing senator is no stranger to firsts. Not only was she the first US senator to give birth while in office, but she was also the first Asian-American elected to congress in Illinois and the first disabled woman to be elected to Congress. And the passing of her resolution marks the breaking down of yet another barrier to women's participation in US politics.
Female politicians in the US can finally claim the same rights as women politicians in countries like the UK and Australia.
Last May, Parliamentarian Larissa Waters, became the first woman to breastfeed on Australia’s Parliament floor when she returned to work after maternity leave, NPR reported.
“If she’s hungry, that’s what you do; you feed your baby,” Waters told The Courier-Mail at the time. “I hope she doesn’t squawk her head off too much, but she’s probably going to be better behaved than many of the people in that room.”
Duckworth commended her fellow lawmakers for "bring[ing] the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work."
Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including goal number five, gender equality, which calls for the “promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family.”
Creating conditions for women and men to equally care for their young children is critical in the fight to eliminate poverty around the world. You can join us and take action here.