U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently directed the Sergeant at Arms to stop enforcing the prestigious body’s dress code, a move designed to quietly accommodate new U.S. Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) so he would be allowed to continue wearing his trademark hoodie sweatshirt instead of a suit and tie.
Axios scooped news about the change on Sunday after a Senate official told the outlet that changes to dress code enforcement would go into effect next week. It’s unclear if Sen. Fetterman has been chided, fined, or otherwise disciplined for previous infractions. “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.
Under the new rules, senators can now stand at the back of the chamber and cast their vote with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down motion while keeping one foot in the cloakroom. The change is ostensibly made to accommodate members who are fresh off a plane or a workout at the gym. Senate staff will still be required to abide by the old rules, which call for a coat and tie for men, according to the report on Axios.
Sen. Fetterman, who has voted this way before, has continued to wear the dark hoodies that he donned as his state’s lieutenant governor. The Pennsylvania Democrat has struggled publicly with clinical depression, but critics say that’s not an excuse for failing to dress appropriately as a member of the world’s most exclusive club.
Asked for proof of previous enforcement, Senate staff could not find a written copy of the dress code when asked. Instead, enforcement by the Sergeant at Arms appears to be informal.
The last change to the Senate’s dress code came five years ago when Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) requested that female members be allowed to show their arms and sport less stuffy business attire. The move prompted Senator Kristen Sinema (D-AZ) to begin wearing sleeveless dresses.
During the height of the #MeToo movement in 2017, the House relaxed its dress rules for women in a move that then-Speaker Paul Ryan said would “modernize” the chamber’s approach to staid attire for female members.