US Senate debut for 10-day-old baby creates history

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Tiny Maile Pearl made Senate history on Thursday without making a sound.

The tightly wrapped 10-day-old baby, brought to the well of the chamber by her mother, Sen Tammy Duckworth, became the first newborn to appear there just one day after the Senate approved a new rule permitting it.

“It’s about time,” the Illinois Democrat and Iraq War veteran told reporters on the way in to vote.

The rule had passed without objection — but there had been plenty of grumbling about babies threatening the Senate’s cherished decorum.

But when it actually happened, even stern Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to beam. In fact, he left a Senate vote open to allow Ms Duckworth time to get there.

“Thank you very much,” Ms Duckworth said to the Kentucky Republican. The double amputee, in a wheelchair with Maile in her lap, was on the floor for less than three minutes before they took off.

Like newborns, the Senate can be unpredictable.

The first sign that the two would meet on Thursday was a tweet by Ms Duckworth that she might vote on the nomination of Rep James Bridenstine to run Nasa.

“May have to vote today. Maile’s outfit is prepped,” she tweeted, with a photo of baby clothes.

“Made sure she has a jacket so she doesn’t violate the Senate floor dress code requiring blazers. Not sure what the policy is on duckling onesies but I think we’re ready.”

The idea was for Ms Duckworth to vote only if she was needed to break a tie. Vice President Mike Pence arrived for the same reason. In the end, it was unnecessary and Mr Bridenstine was confirmed.

Ms Duckworth cast a thumbs-down anyway, before her colleagues descended to coo over the wee baby.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer inquired about the well-being of Maile’s sister and wished them a safe trip home.

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