Wear shorts and hoodies in the US Senate chamber? That didn’t work at all until this informal rule was overturned a week ago, to the dismay of many. Now the senators have introduced a formal dress code.
Just days after relaxing the unofficial dress code in the US Senate, the House of Congress passed a resolution requiring senators to wear business attire. According to the formal dress code, which was introduced across party lines and passed unanimously, men must wear a jacket, long trousers and a tie when in the chamber. There are no special requirements for women.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a week ago that the staff of the Sergeant-at-Arms – the official protocol police of the congressional chamber – would no longer ensure compliance with a dress code. From now on, senators could choose how they dress in the Senate. Schumer made it clear: “I will continue to wear a suit.”
Abolition of the dress code caused outrage in the Senate
The background to the decision was John Fetterman’s entry into the Senate, even if Schumer did not explicitly mention his name. Fetterman has represented the state of Pennsylvania in Washington since January and usually wears his usual outfit of shorts, sneakers and a hoodie. The 54-year-old has often voted from doorsteps or just stuck his head into the plenary hall. He wore suits to committee meetings.
Many senators, especially Republicans, reacted indignantly to Schumer’s rule change because they saw the chamber’s dignity violated. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and his Republican colleague Mitt Romney therefore introduced the resolution to establish a dress code.
“For 234 years, every senator who has had the honor of serving on this distinguished body has assumed that there are some basic written rules of decency, behavior and civility, including a dress code,” Manchin said in explaining the move. “We thought maybe it was time to finally codify something that has been the rule for 234 years.”
Romney emphasized that the United States Capitol is more than just a workplace. “It is a symbol of freedom and democracy in the world. […] As senators, we should show a high level of reverence for the institution we serve — and our clothing is one of the most fundamental expressions of that respect.”
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Fetterman had already stated before the dress code was passed that he would use his new freedom sparingly and wear business attire when voting in the Senate. Schumer thanked him in the plenary for his concession: “Although we have never had an official dress code, the events of the last week have given us the feeling that adopting a dress code is the right thing to do,” said the majority leader. “I greatly appreciate that Senator Fetterman worked with me to reach an agreement that we all find acceptable.”
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.