Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth made history today by giving birth to a baby girl. She is the first U.S. senator to have a baby while in office.
“Bryan, Abigail and I couldn’t be happier to welcome little Maile Pearl as the newest addition to our family and we’re deeply honored that our good friend, Senator (Daniel) Akaka, was able to bless her name for us — his help in naming both of our daughters means he will always be with us,” Duckworth said in her office’s statement.
“Pearl Bowlsbey Johnson was Bryan’s great Aunt, an Army Officer and a nurse who served during the Second World War,” Duckworth said in a statement explaining their choice of name. “He (Bryan) spent many summer months with her while growing up. We feel her presence still and are grateful for her service to our nation during the most challenging of times.”
Akaka and Duckworth formed a close bond when she was recuperating at Walter Reed and he asked her to testify before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee when he was chairman. Later, after she was elected to the House in 2013, they worked together on veterans’ issues.
An aide close to Duckworth told CNN she’s doing well and taking 12 weeks paid leave to bond with her new daughter and take care of her family. She’s staying in Washington, DC, for her maternity leave and is available to vote as needed.
After she learned she was pregnant, Duckworth learned that she cannot “technically take maternity leave.” Duckworth says that if she takes maternity leave, she “won’t be allowed to sponsor legislation or vote during that time period.”
There’s also a rule passed in the last century by the largely male lawmaking bastion against bringing children onto the Senate floor, which could potentially cause problems for Duckworth.
“You are not allowed to bring children onto the floor of the Senate at all,” she says. “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 and other women senators are working to change the antiquated rules. Wiith more women being elected to the Senate, Duckworth will likely not be the last to give birth while in office.
“My leadership of the Democratic Party have been very supportive,” she told CNN. “We’re going to request a rules change, so that during the first year of this child’s life, whether you are a woman or a man, whether you’re breast-feeding or not, or you’ve adopted or something, you should be able to bring that child on to the floor and continue to do your job.”
She continued: “I mean, this is ridiculous. We’re in 2018 and we’re still dealing with this in the United States of America. We’re better than that. And, certainly, this speaks to the problems we have in this country with the need for family leave and certainly more family-friendly legislation in this country.”
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