The Senate floor has become a little less formal these days.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Monday that Senate employees, specifically the Sergeant-at-Arms – the Senate’s official uniformed police – will no longer enforce a dress code on the Senate floor.
This change comes after Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman made headlines earlier this year for voting at the door without formal attire, so as not to be inconvenienced by his more formal garb.
Schumer stated in a statement, “There is now an informal dress code in place.” “Senators are free to decide what to wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit.”
Schumer’s statement didn’t mention Fetterman, who the rule only applies to Senators, not staff.
These changes have raised some discontent among some more traditional members of the Senate, undoing some of the goodwill that Fetterman and Schumer earned at the beginning of the year when Fetterman was honest about going to the hospital for his recent stroke. He won bipartisan praise for that.
When he returned from treatment, he began wearing more comfortable clothes, which he says makes him feel more at ease.
Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, a Republican, said it was a “sad day in the Senate” and the people represented by Fetterman and Schumer should be ashamed.
Marshall said, “I represent the people of Kansas, and a lot of it is just like when I get dressed to go to a wedding, it’s about respecting the bride and groom, you’re going to a funeral, you’re dressed to show respect for the family of the deceased.” He said senators should maintain a certain level of decorum.”
So, it seems the Senate floor has seen a bit of a change in its formality lately, with some Senators opting for more casual attire, while others prefer to stick to the traditional dress code.
Republican Senator Susan Collins weighed in, arguing that relaxed rules weaken the Senate as an institution. Collins humorously said, “I’m planning to wear a bikini on the Senate floor tomorrow.”
On Monday evening, John Fetterman voted in casual attire with short sleeves and shorts, saying he still wasn’t sure if he would embrace the new rules fully.
He mentioned, “Options are good, but I’m planning to use this minimally, and I won’t overdo it.”
When asked about criticism, Fetterman expressed mock exasperation.
He commented on his critics, “They’re overreacting; I don’t get it.” “Like, are there no more important things for us to work on right now than, you know, whether I can wear shorts like a goofball?”
When Fetterman arrived on the Senate floor, he voted at the door. As he headed back to his office in an elevator, he told reporters, “Baby steps.”
Not all Republicans were displeased with the change. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley voted on Monday evening wearing jeans, shoes, and no tie, an attire he usually dons when he flies home to vote in his home state the week before Election Day.
Hawley remarked, “Now I can vote in the Senate on Mondays.” He normally wears a suit and tie every other day.
Across the aisle, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy was also tieless. The Democrat said he had been scolded by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms staff in the past for not wearing a tie on the floor.”
Murphy said, “When we were doing it wrong, they will let us know.”
It’s not clear if the rules for more formal attire were actually written anywhere, but Shumer’s directive means that employees won’t be scolded for senators’ clothing preferences or told to vote from the door.
For Fetterman, his signature hoodies and gym shorts were indicators of his authenticity. Before getting his check-up at the hospital, his staff always told him to wear a suit, which he despised. But after his examination with a Senate senator in April, it became clear that he could continue wearing casual clothes that often represented his home state of Pennsylvania unless he was on the Senate floor. He still wears a suit when necessary for committee meetings.
In recent weeks, Pennsylvania Senator Holvey has become more comfortable joking and answering journalists’ questions in the Senate chamber. Due to his stroke and hearing processing disorder, his words sometimes still stutter, making it challenging to speak fluently and engage in spoken conversation. He uses an iPad and iPhone in conversations, which transcribe spoken words in real time.
On Monday, Fetterman told a group of reporters, “I think we all should be more comfortable.” “And now we have that option, and if people like to wear suits, that’s great.”