Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knocked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) decision to loosen the Senate’s informal dress code by pledging that GOP senators will nevertheless keep dressing up for work.
“I think I’m pretty safe in saying most if not all Republican senators think we ought to dress up to go to work. So I can’t imagine that we’re going to be wearing jeans on the Senate floor anytime soon,” McConnell told reporters in Tuesday in response to an announcement over the weekend that senators will be able to wear what they want on the Senate floor.
The loosening of the Senate’s informal dress code appeared to cater to freshman Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who often wears his trademark hoodie and on Tuesday came to work wearing a dark short-sleeved collared shirt and dark shorts.
Until now, senators were not allowed on the Senate floor without a coat and tie. On the occasion when senators showed up to vote in short-sleeved shirts or gym clothes, they were previously required to vote from the cloakroom just off the Senate floor, which meant poking only their head and arm into the chamber to register a “yea” or “nay” vote.
Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who is of Native American heritage and a North Cheyenne chief, needed special permission just to wear a bolo tie on the floor, when he served in the upper chamber from 1993 to 2005.
The dress code change announced over the weekend, however, will not apply to Senate staff or other visitors to the floor, who will still be required to wear coats and ties or other business attire.
Other GOP senators complained about loosening the rules of decorum in the historic chamber. “Sen. Schumer has done just about everything he can to destroy the traditions of the Senate, everything from eliminating the filibuster rule to now this. And for what? To accommodate one person who doesn’t like to put on a suit?” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), referring to Fetterman.
“I don’t think it’s going to change a lot in terms of how most of us operate but I just think it’s another indication he doesn’t respect the Senate as an institution,” he said.