Schumer Relaxes Senate Dress Code, Inviting Rebuke From Some Republicans

Schumer Relaxes Senate Dress Code, Inviting Rebuke From Some Republicans
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) speaks at Belmont Water Treatment Center in Philadelphia on Feb. 3, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Ryan Morgan

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has relaxed the informal dress code for Senate floor proceedings, prompting some senators to take on a more casual appearance while others lamented the apparent falling standards of the body.

Mr. Schumer said Monday that staff for the chamber’s Sergeant-at-Arms will no longer enforce a dress code on the Senate floor.

“There has been an informal dress code that was enforced,” Mr. Schumer said in a press statement on Monday. “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit.”

The change comes as Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) has continued to wear casual attire like sweatshirts and basketball shorts as he goes about his duties. Mr. Fetterman has repeatedly cast votes from beyond the doorways of the Senate floor to stay in line with a dress code that bars such casual attire.
Mr. Schumer did not mention Mr. Fetterman by name when announcing the change in dress code, but the move has been widely seen as one meant to facilitate the junior senator from Pennsylvania, who suffered a stroke before he won his seat in the 2022 midterm election and who was absent from the Senate for two months while undergoing treatment for major depression.
NTD News reached out to Mr. Schumer's office for additional details about the dress policy change but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.

Some Republicans Question New Dress Policy

Republicans in the House and Senate both criticized the relaxed dress code.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) said Mr. Schumer's announcement marks "a sad day in the Senate."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joked that she could test just how serious Mr. Schumer is about permitting casual wear by adopting her own extreme appearance.

“I plan to wear a bikini tomorrow to the Senate floor,” the 70-year-old senator from Maine said.

On the House side, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) cast the relaxed Senate floor dress code as a move specifically to accommodate Mr. Fetterman's clothing preferences.

"The Senate no longer enforcing a dress code for Senators to appease Fetterman is disgraceful," Ms. Greene said in a post on the X social media platform on Sunday as rumors of the relaxed policy began to circulate. "Dress code is one of society’s standards that set etiquette and respect for our institutions. Stop lowering the bar!"

Fetterman Hits Back at Critics

Mr. Fetterman responded with his own mockery after being singled out in several critiques of the relaxed dress policy.

"Aren’t there more important things we should be working on right now instead of, you know, that I might be dressing like a slob?” Mr. Fetterman said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president as a Republican in 2024, alluded to the relaxed dress code and Mr. Fetterman during an official event addressing first responders in his state.

"The U.S. Senate just eliminated its dress code because you got this guy from Pennsylvania who's got a lot of problems, let's just be honest," Mr. DeSantis said without directly naming Mr. Fetterman.

Mr. DeSantis went on to argue that it was one thing to campaign in such informal attire, as Mr. Fetterman had in 2022, but to go before the Senate in sweatshirts and shorts is disrespectful.

"We need to be lifting up our standards in this country, not dumbing down," Mr. DeSantis added.

Mr. Fetterman responded to Mr. DeSantis's remarks by mocking the Florida governor's presidential campaign.

"I dress like he campaigns," Mr. Fetterman said in an X post quoting the Florida governor's critical remarks.

Mr. DeSantis remains in a distant second place in Republican primary polling, sitting about 44 points behind the frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, in the RealClearPolitics average of Republican presidential primary polls. While he has consistently held second place, the gap between President Trump and Mr. DeSantis has only widened since he formally entered the race.

Senators Take Advantage of New Policy

At least a couple of senators tested the waters of this new dress policy on Monday.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who told reporters he had been criticized in the past for approaching the Senate floor without a necktie, chose not to wear one during Monday's proceedings.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also took advantage of the new rules on Monday, despite much consternation from his fellow Republicans. He attended the Monday evening Senate floor proceedings without a tie, while also wearing jeans and boots. These clothes, he explained, are his usual attire when he flies in from his home state each week.

"Now I can vote from the Senate floor on Mondays," the Republican senator said.

Mr. Fetterman also wore a short-sleeved button-down shirt and shorts during a Monday evening vote after Mr. Schumer announced the dress policy change. Despite his apparent role in bringing about the dress code change, Mr. Fetterman still elected to cast his vote from just beyond the Senate doors.

“It’s nice to have the option, but I’m going to plan to be using it sparingly and not really overusing it,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said of the decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.