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Congressional dads call for more changing tables in House office bathrooms

Diaper switches have taken place on Cloakroom floor

Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., has tweeted about his experience trying to find a place to change his son Hodge's diaper at the Capitol.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., has tweeted about his experience trying to find a place to change his son Hodge's diaper at the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Congressional Dads Caucus is calling out the lack of diaper changing tables in House office buildings and asking the House Administration Committee to address the shortage.

The caucus, founded by Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., in January, sent a letter Friday to House Administration Chairman Bryan Steil, R-Wis., and ranking member Joseph D. Morelle, D-N.Y., asking them to expand access to changing tables throughout the House side of the Capitol complex.

Gomez, whose son Hodge was born last year, said in an interview Thursday that he learned of the shortage when a constituent posted about it on social media after a visit to the Capitol. He sent staff to investigate the issue and found that many bathrooms in the Rayburn and Longworth office buildings have no changing tables. Cannon, which is in the final phase of a renovation project, has many more options, Gomez said.

“It just makes life easier if you have changing tables in all the restrooms,” Gomez said in the interview. “If people come to the Capitol to participate in a hearing or to testify and they bring their child, they wouldn’t have to sneak away or do it in the corner or do it on the floor.”

The Congressional Dads Caucus has 28 members (26 of whom signed the letter) to push for family-friendly policies.

The issue also arose in 2018, to no avail.

“There’s nothing more frustrating when you have a dirty diaper to change and the men’s room has no changing tables. I’ve had to get on hands and knees a few times,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., told Roll Call at the time.

A 2016 law requires bathrooms in all federal public buildings be equipped with baby-changing facilities, but it excludes congressional office buildings, according to the letter.

Gomez said he hasn’t taken the temperature of House Administration Committee members — who have jurisdiction over building operations — on the issue.

Steil on Friday issued a letter in response to Gomez and other members of the caucus noting that there are already 98 changing stations throughout House office buildings, according to the Architect of the Capitol. 

“In the event a bathroom with a diaper changing station is difficult to find, we are happy to work with your offices to identify where signage throughout our buildings may be useful,” he wrote.

Morelle, meanwhile, was more receptive to adding more.

“Our working parents constantly have to balance their professional and family responsibilities,” Morelle said in a statement. “Adding additional diaper changing tables in House office buildings is a small but meaningful way to make good on our commitment to supporting the needs of families.”

The proposal would come at some cost. But Gomez said any expense would likely be small and pale in comparison to the benefits of creating a more inclusive, welcoming Capitol complex.

“Addressing the lack of diaper changing tables is one example of how we can improve upon a workplace that is not designed for working parents,” the letter says. “Since House offices are also open to the public, this creates an opportunity to help the thousands of families who come to Congress to expose their children to democracy in action.”

Baby Hodge grabbed attention in January during the protracted vote for House speaker, when many families were stuck at the Capitol for swearing-in ceremonies that couldn’t take place until a speaker was elected.

Gomez carried Hodge to and from votes during the drawn-out process, tweeting occasional updates such as: “2 bottle feeds and multiple diaper changes on the Democratic cloak room floor. This speaker vote is taking forever!” 

Cloakroom changings aside, Gomez said the experience for members with children is typically much easier to navigate than it is for visitors. 

“When you’re a member, it’s easy. We have an office, we have a couch. But if you’re just here visiting, it’s a lot more challenging,” Gomez said. “Little things matter. Changing tables are a basic necessity for most folks. And we’ve got to make those small changes that will have a big impact on how people feel.”

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