Political baby talk
The Great Senate Baby Scare
IT BECAME A high-profile debate over open carry.
But unlike the matter of openly flashing lethal weaponry while strolling through town, which people in some states regard as much ado about not much at all, this open carry debate played out at a high level.
The controversial subject of this carry kerfuffle: newborn babies.
The tempest in a sippy cup was set off when Sen. Tammy Duckworth became the first sitting member of the Senate to give birth while in office. The Illinois Democrat didn’t have the option of having anyone fill in for her to take votes while she was on leave, so she decided to return to the Senate for a key vote with her 10-day-old daughter in hand.
Calamity had not seemed this close at hand since the Music Man warned the mothers of River City about the horrors that might follow once their sons start rebuckling their knickers below their knees. The world’s most august deliberative body, which sometimes seems to double as a senior center for octogenarian men, went into a mild tizzy.
The Great Senate Baby Scare of 2018 was captured best by retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. The 84-year-old Utahan asked his colleagues to ponder where this could all lead. “But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?” he asked.
“That would be wonderful and a delight,” answered Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
For Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, the Senate baby talk was all too familiar. Both of the at-large councilor’s sons were born since the time she took office in 2014. And in an essay she wrote for CNN in the wake of Duckworth’s historic arrival last week on the Senate floor with newborn Maile, Wu wrote, “I have been cheering on Senator Duckworth with admiration and empathy.”
Before a child care slot opened up, Wu brought her older son to committee hearings, where he slept soundly on her desk. The reaction of colleagues and the public was overwhelmingly supportive, but Wu said she was blistered by an online critic who went so far as to call on her to resign.
“If she cannot devote her full attention when doing Council business, she should not serve,” she says he tweeted at one point.“Too often, our societal norms still set up a false choice between parenting and professionalism,” wrote Wu.
What’s more, writes Sarah Kliff in Vox, a world with 10 babies on the Senate floor might even bring better financing of child care services or be one where fathers play a bigger role in parenting. “Come to think of it,” she writes, “a world with 10 babies on the Senate floor doesn’t sound so bad at all.”