Relaxed Senate dress code rules that went into effect this week have sparked debate, mockery and, from some senators, a warm reception to a change that’s become fodder for partisan-fueled barbs between some Republicans and the shorts-wearing Sen. John Fetterman (D-Penn.).
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) confirmed to Axios over the weekend that senators will no longer be required to wear a suit and tie on the Senate floor: “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor,” he said, adding that he would continue to wear a suit.
The modification will allow Fetterman to walk on to the Senate floor in his preferred attire of shorts and hooded sweatshirts instead of voting from the doorway to the chamber.
Fetterman on Monday, the first day the rules went into effect, wore a short-sleeved button-down shirt and shorts, but still voted from the sidelines, telling reporters he planned to take “baby steps” with the new privilege and use it “sparingly.”
Fetterman engaged in tit-for-tats with GOP critics of the new dress code, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told an audience in Jacksonville he believed the change was intended to cater to Fetterman, referring to him as “this guy from Pennsylvania who’s got a lot of problems,” an apparent reference to Fetterman’s treatment for clinical depression earlier this year and his recovery from a stroke last year, to which Fetterman fired back on X: “I dress like he campaigns.”
Fetterman also jabbed at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who called the rule change “诲颈蝉驳谤补肠别蹿耻濒,” by highlighting her display of a lewd photo of Hunter Biden engaging in a sex act during a House committee hearing earlier this year: “The nation’s lower chamber lives by a higher code of conduct: displaying ding-a-ling pics in public hearings,” he tweeted.
And on Tuesday, he called out Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) for getting kicked out of a recent performance of Beetlejuice: “I figure if I take up vaping and grabbing the hog during a live musical, they’ll make me a folk hero,” he tweeted, referring to video footage that shows Boebert vaping inside the Denver theater and groping her date.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Roger Marshall (Kansas) also criticized the rule change. Collins joked that she planned “to wear a bikini” to work. Marshall said it was a “sad day in the Senate,” equating dressing up for his official duties to wearing formal clothes to a wedding or funeral. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), a former Auburn University football coach, quipped that he would show up in his coaching outfit, telling NBC News the new rule “bothers me big-time.”
Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) were among those who embraced the change. Hawley wore jeans, boots and no tie on Monday as he voted and Murphy went tieless. Murkowski, wearing a quarter-zip and sneakers on the Senate floor Monday, gave a nod to sexism in response to the modified rule, suggesting “summer casual” dress codes for men in the warmer months “so we don’t have the air-conditioning so low and spend so much money keeping this place cold,” she told reporters.
The Senate dress code is enforced by the Sergeant at Arms, but as Axios notes, it does not appear in the official written rules for the chamber. The loosened restrictions will only apply to senators, while Senate staffers will still be required to adhere to the previous, more formal dress code.
Dress codes for Congress have been the subject of repeated debate for years. Former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan modified the dress code in 2017 to allow women to wear sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes on the House floor after a female reporter was kicked out for baring her shoulders, prompting an outcry from female lawmakers.
Senate ditches dress code as Fetterman and others choose casual clothes (Associated Press)