In response to the birth of Sen. Tammy Duckworth's daughter, several male Republican senators have displayed a shocking ignorance — and even fear — about babies.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who recently gave birth to daughter Maile Pearl, is seeking to change some rules to "bring the Senate into the 21st century." But on the way to eventual passage, her proposal ran into some stumbling blocks: Republican men.
Duckworth's proposed change would allow her, and future new parents in the Senate, to bring newborns into the chamber while casting votes so they can tend to their babies and represent their constituents.
While the rule change was eventually approved, several Republican men expressed confusion, doubt, and ignorance about the basics of parenting and babies' needs. These men, who regularly legislate and opine on the needs of working families, have managed to reveal just how little they actually understand what they're talking about.
In one exchange about whether to allow diaper bags on the Senate floor, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) cluelessly declared them obsolete.
"They don't use diaper bags anymore, they're disposable diapers," he said. As evidence, Inhofe added, "I know, because I've got 20 kids and grandkids."
Contrary to Inhofe's self-proclaimed expertise, diaper bags are still used every day by millions of families across the country. As the Associated Press noted, "Diaper bags are generally used to carry clean diapers and other supplies when parents and babies go out."
Some of Inhofe's fellow Republican senators were hostile to the idea of changing the rules to allow babies on the Senate floor.
"I don't think it's necessary," said Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts. He suggested a senator could simply stand in the door of the Senate cloakroom instead.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton insisted he personally had no problem with the rule change but that forcing Duckworth and other new parents to vote from the cloakroom would be a good "compromise" for his colleagues who had a problem.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) reminded her male colleagues that Duckworth is a double amputee from her combat injuries serving in Iraq, and mostly uses a wheelchair.
"Yes, you can vote from the doorway of the cloakroom," Klobuchar said, "but how is she going to get to the cloakroom when it’s not wheelchair accessible?"
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) seemed to believe that a rule change would open some sort of baby floodgate.
"But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?" he asked.
Klobuchar said it "would be a delight" to have 10 babies on the Senate floor.
Other senators privately worried about whether Duckworth would nurse her child or change her diaper on the floor.
The comments and "concerns" reflect a bizarre and behind-the-times perspective on women and families in the workplace. They also show how disregard for working mothers is such an ingrained part of the Republican Party's mindset — a party that claims to be one of family values but clearly takes issue with babies.
The men pontificating incorrectly on diaper bags, and worrying about the presence of infants, are also setting policies regarding women and childcare that affect millions of people.
Out of 100 senators, only 23 are women, but 50.8 of Americans are women. Maybe if there were more women in Congress, leaders wouldn't be so misinformed about parenting or so fearful of babies.