By Emily Goodin - 09/03/13 11:00 PM EDT
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) was pulling double duty this summer: pushing a bill on the House floor and potty training.
Griffin’s 3-year-old son John was visiting at the time, forcing the two-term Republican to juggle parenting and legislative duties.
He noted that there were no accidents; “The diapers helped,” he joked.
Griffin’s son was one of the many children spotted with their lawmaker parents before the August recess.
With school starting again, members returning to Washington this week for hearings on Syria and next week for a full agenda might catch more of a break.
But the waves of newly elected congressmen and women over the last few cycles have brought more kids to Congress, where they’ve often been seen chatting with other lawmakers. Some have even had a chance to meet President Obama.
The unusual number of children in the Capitol halls and on the House floor drew notice in August — along with jokes that they were better behaved than most of the member parents.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) shared a bit of nostalgia on Twitter when it came to first-day-of-school duties.
“Just dropped my twins off for their 1st day of high school. My gosh, didn’t I just drop them off at pre-K? #bittersweet #timeflies #proudmom,” she wrote in late August.
Wasserman Schultz, like many lawmakers, brought each of her children to Washington over the summer to spend a week with her.
The Hill spotted her with daughter Rebecca — one of the twins going to high school.
“This is one of the favorite things we do all year. I’ve always brought up each of my kids for a week by myself so I get some one-on-one time, and they get some mom time,” she said.
And Rebecca knows just about as many lawmakers as her mother.
“Her favorite thing to do is to walk around on the floor and hug the members she knows,” Wasserman Schultz said. “A lot of my colleagues have known her since she’s 4, so they’ve watched her grow up.”
The Democratic National Committee chairwoman said visiting Congress is a valuable learning experience for all the lawmakers’ children.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who had his 6-year-old son, Ulysses, with him during one week in August, said he warned him that a day of House duties could be “boring.”
“There are long days with not a lot going on. He’s been a good sport,” the lawmaker said.
Ulysses was on hand to attend Obama’s meeting with House Democrats, although he was a little shy when it came time to meet the commander in chief.
“I took him up to shake the president’s hand — he came up to him — but I think it was a little overwhelming,” O’Rourke said. “It’s understandable; there were a bunch of members of Congress around him.”
O’Rourke had his hands full as he spoke to The Hill. He was also watching Rep. Pete Gallego’s (D-Texas) 8-year-old son, Nicolas.
But don’t call him the babysitter.
“I learned long ago never to call it that,” he said. “I call it parenting.”
On the Senate side, Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa (R-N.J.), who was appointed to fill the late-Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) seat, had his son and daughter down for a visit.
“They had a great time. They got to see a lot of great stuff: the museums, the Library of Congress; my son saw the Supreme Court; my daughter [hit museums]; they got to meet a number of senators who were really generous and terrific with their time, so they really enjoyed it.”
The two also got to visit the Senate floor in the early mornings before votes, but that didn’t have the same impact.
“They were less impressed with that,” the senator said.
It’s not just sons and daughters visiting lawmakers. It’s also grandchildren.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) was a big hit when he brought his 2-year-old granddaughter, Caitlin, for a visit.
Caitlin, with Cindy Lou Who-type pigtails, had several lawmakers stopping to coo over her. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) even took an Instagram photo of her and Caitlin, noting Kildee “wins cutest granddaughter!”
“I kind of wish I was whipping amendments or something because no one was going to say no,” Kildee said.
Caitlin, like most of the visiting kids, got a chance to vote on legislation, using her grandfather’s voting card.
“She slid the card in. I had to move her finger over from red to green,” he said.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) garnered a lot of attention when she brought 4-year-old Tyson, the son of a family friend, onto the House floor with his Iron Man costume on.
And Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) brought two of his constituents’ children onto the floor with him.
“They were constituents of mine who were doing a tour, and I happen to see them in the office and said ‘would you like to go on the House floor?’” he said.
He let them vote for him, which is technically frowned upon as lawmakers are encouraged to cast their own yes or no vote.
But Quigley said it’s a good learning experience.
“I let them vote under close auspice, and they had a 100 percent voting record,” he said.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) has four adopted children, some of whom took turns visiting him at the Capitol.
He joked the reaction from fellow lawmakers was “interesting.”
“They’re all adopted so they’re not your average — all four are African-American.”
He said 11-year-old Athan is more into policy, and 6-year-old Alex was just happy to be there.
“On the flight the home, he leaned over and put his head on my shoulder and said ‘Dad I love you,’ and that was all worth it.”