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Why the Senate's Dress Code Rules Are Changing

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Soon, the US Senate will have no dress code for its members. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Mitch McConnell, and others can come to work dressed however they like. It’s not in an official statement, but it’s clear that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did this to accommodate John Fetterman’s penchant for wearing hoodies and gym shorts. Staffers are still required to wear business attire. Mr. Schumer says he will continue to wear a suit and tie to work (via Axios):


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) quietly has directed the Senate's Sergeant at Arms to no longer enforce the chamber's informal dress code for its members, Axios has learned. 

Why it matters: The new directive will allow Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who tends to favor gym shorts and hoodies over the business attire traditionally required in the chamber, to linger on the Senate floor before and after votes. 

"Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit," Schumer said in a statement to Axios.

Fetterman, who was elected last year, initially followed Senate tradition and wore suits. But since returning to the Senate after being treated for clinical depression earlier this year, he frequently has sported the casual look he was known for as Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor. 


Under that standard, men and women have been required to wear business attire on the Senate floor — which has meant coat and tie for men. 

But senators fresh off a plane or from the gym could circumvent the dress code by voting from the edge of the Senate floor, with one foot still in the cloakroom. 

They could hold their thumb up or down to indicate their vote and then step back out of the chamber. Technically, they weren't considered to be in violation of the floor's dress code. Fetterman and other senators have voted this way. 

The intrigue: It's unclear whether the Senate dress code is actually an official, written policy. It appears to be more of an informal custom, enforced by the Sergeant at Arms. 


I liked how our Twitchy friends framed this change on the Hill: “God forbid John Fetterman have to wear a suit.”

Fetterman is still in recovery from a catastrophic stroke he suffered during the 2022 primaries. The damage might be irreparable since he didn’t take the time to recover due to the campaign. He’s also been hospitalized for clinical depression. Does it cheapen the Senate? You could argue that, but there are bigger fish to fry for conservatives right now as we’re veering toward a government shutdown.


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