Schumer Jettisons Senate Dress Code To Accommodate New, Less Formal, Members

The ruling will go into effect this week and will apply only to senators and not to staff or visitors to the Senate.

AP/Jacquelyn Martin, file
Senator Fetterman, arrives at the U.S. Capitol wearing his trademark hoodie and gym shorts. AP/Jacquelyn Martin, file

Senator Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, has reportedly changed the chamber’s dress code to remove requirements that men on the floor wear coats and ties and women wear only business attire.

According to reporting by Axios confirmed by other press outlets Sunday, the move will allow newcomers to Congress’s upper chamber such as Senator Fetterman to linger on the floor before and after votes in his trademark hoodies and gym shorts.

“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor,” Mr. Schumer told Axios. “I will continue to wear a suit.”

The ruling will go into effect this week and will apply only to senators and not to staff or visitors to the Senate, who will still be required to dress more formally. The rules are described as informal, enforced by the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms, and not a written policy.

Senators such as Mr. Fetterman have avoided violating the dress code while casting votes by standing in the doorway of the chamber with one foot still in the cloak room. Senator Cruz famously showed up for one vote in 2021 in gym clothes, complaining that it was scheduled in the middle of one of his basketball games.

The new rules mark the second big change in the Senate’s dress code in the past decade. Until 2017, women in the Senate were forbidden from wearing outfits that displayed their arms, a change reportedly made in order to accommodate the now-independent Senator Sinema from Arizona.

Ms. Sinema is well-known on Capitol Hill for telegraphing her independence via colorful clothing and often appears in sleeveless dresses. During the pandemic, she even sported pastel-colored wigs to, as a spokeswoman put it, demonstrate her commitment to “social distancing in accordance with best practices, including from salons.”

According to Jennifer Steinhauer’s book “The Firsts: the Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress,” the changes were made at the behest of Senator Klobuchar, who told the Senate Rules committee that the new senator “needed to be allowed to wear what she wanted” in her new workplace.

The dress code in the House remains relatively strict. Men in the chambers must wear suit jackets and ties on the floor and in the Speaker’s lobby, and women were also prohibited from baring their arms until as recently as 2017. The speaker at the time, Paul Ryan, eased up on the rules after a social media furor kicked off by a reporter who violated the rules.

Members of the House are also not supposed to wear athletic or open-toed shoes in the chambers, though those rules have been relaxed more recently as well.

The New York Sun

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