The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution requiring male senators to wear a coat, tie and slacks or other long pants on the chamber’s floor following days of upheaval sparked by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s decision to stop enforcing the requirement of business attire.
The resolution passed using a process known as unanimous consent.
While the move by Schumer (D-N.Y.) had come as good news to some lawmakers, including Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who frequently dons hooded sweatshirts and basketball shorts while working — though not while on the Senate floor — other senators were incensed by the idea of weaker sartorial requirements in the chamber.
Among them were Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who co-sponsored the resolution to overturn Schumer’s decision.
“We want those who serve inside this room in this hall to show a level of dignity and respect, which is consistent with the sacrifice they made and with the beauty of the surroundings,” Romney said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
Schumer’s request that the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms stop enforcing the policy would have meant that the country’s 100 senators would have had free rein to choose how they dressed while conducting some of the nation’s most important business. Before Schumer’s move, the Senate had followed an unwritten and unevenly enforced policy that encouraged men to wear suits and ties and women to cover their arms.
Manchin on Wednesday said that he learned about a week ago that “there were not in fact any written rules about the senators, and what they could and could not wear on the floor.”
The debate over the Senate’s dress code — which unfolded as a government shutdown ticked closer — quickly drew attention online, where many zeroed in on Fetterman’s fashion choices. Last week, all but three Republican senators sent a letter to Schumer, chiding him for the decision and arguing that a dress code upholds the sanctity of the institution. They implored Schumer to reverse his decision.
Fetterman, meanwhile, took the situation lightly, declining to walk onto the Senate floor while wearing a shirt and shorts on Sept. 19, according to HuffPost.
“I just don’t want the world to burn down,” he told a reporter when asked why he didn’t enter the chamber. “The Republicans think I’m going to burst in through the doors and start break-dancing on the floor.”
Schumer said Wednesday that the events of the last week “have made us all feel as though formalizing [a dress code] is the right path forward.”
Schumer thanked Fetterman for agreeing to wear a suit when in the chamber and when he presides over the Senate. Punchbowl News had earlier reported that the senator from Pennsylvania said he would wear business attire in the chamber but would continue to wear his casual attire in the Senate’s cloakroom.
The majority leader also said he appreciated Manchin and Romney’s “leadership on this issue.”
Romney, in his Senate remarks on Wednesday, acknowledged that this is “not the biggest thing going on in Washington today.”
“But nonetheless, it’s a good thing. It’s another example of Republicans and Democrats being able to work together and to solve, in this case, what may not be a real big problem, but it’s an important thing, and it makes a difference to a lot of people,” he said.
Fetterman, for his part, responded to the resolution’s passing in a statement that simply featured a viral image of actor Kevin James smirking.
— Senator John Fetterman (@SenFettermanPA) September 27, 2023
Notably, the resolution makes no reference to what female senators are expected to wear.