Breast-feeding moms to Merkley: You rock

An Oregon law to boost breast-feeding by providing working mothers with unpaid time and a clean space to pump breast milk is going national

U .S. politicians are notorious for kissing babies, not legislating in their behalf.

Candidate-baby encounters usually peter out in an exchange of gurgles.

But this somewhat volatile, albeit nonvoting bloc — 4.2 million babies born every year in the United States — has found a new champion in Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

You may not remember, but on Aug. 1, 2007, Merkley promised to rock the baby world. That day, Merkley announced his long-shot bid for the U.S. Senate in an unusual setting — a luncheon banquet for the Nursing Mothers Counsel of Oregon.

Merkley was there to help the group celebrate its 2007 legislative victory — a new law, requiring Oregon businesses to give working mothers minimal time (unpaid breaks) and a clean space (not a bathroom) to express breast milk.

At that lunch, Merkley not only surprised the group by announcing his Senate bid, but also promised, if elected, to expand the Oregon law nationwide.

Well, let the record show he’s kept his promise. The essentials of the Oregon program just became national law. Thanks to Merkley, very similar provisions are included in President Barack Obama’s recently signed health care reform legislation.