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Senator's baby makes history by showing up for a vote

A rare change in the rules paved the way for the Illinois Senator to bring her newborn daughter onto the Senate floor.
Image: Tammy Duckworth
Sen. Tammy Duckworth carries her baby Maile Pearl Bowlsbey during a vote on the Senate floor.CSPAN

WASHINGTON — One day after the Senate voted to allow babies onto the chamber's floor, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., made history by bringing her 10-day old newborn with her to vote.

Duckworth thought she might be the deciding vote in stopping a disputed Trump administration nominee. That turned out not to be the case, but the baby, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, still caused a stir on the floor as the first one to appear with a mother who was a senator. On April 9, Duckworth became the first senator to give birth while in office.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., walked up to Duckworth and gave her a hug upon entering the Senate floor. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly approached and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also wandered over.

Duckworth said thank you to McConnell, the gatekeeper of what legislation gets brought to the Senate, for allowing the Senate to change the rules.

"It meant so much to be able to cast the vote as a mom and be able to do my job and take care of my baby at the same time," she told reporters after the vote.

When it appeared hers could be the deciding vote on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., to become NASA administrator, Duckworth took a brief break from her maternity leave and headed to the Capitol to cast her vote in opposition. Democrats opposed the nomination because of the nominee's views on climate change and LGBTQ people, and because he has little background in science.

But Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who had threatened to oppose President Donald Trump's nominee, got concessions on an unrelated matter from GOP leaders and cast his vote in support of Bridenstine, allowing his confirmation to pass.

Adding to the drama Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence was present in case he was needed to break a tie. When it became evident he wasn’t, Pence left, but some senators remained to witness history, congratulate Duckworth on her new family member and, of course, to see the new baby.

The Senate chamber became one of the most exclusive clubs in the 1800s, when senators complained about too many people who were allowed to come onto the floor. Senators then created a list that has been added to over the last century but still allows just a few people into the chamber. Those include the president and vice president, members of Congress, the mayor of Washington and senators’ staff members. And, now, newborn babies are part of that list.