us politics

Should US Senators Dress Up? DC Is Divided On The Issue.

The chamber's top Democrat just made a controversial decision. Should US Senators Dress Up? DC Is Divided On The Issue. Shutterstock

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Since the nation’s founding, the U.S. Senate has been seen as an elite deliberative body where the debates that shape federal laws play out. As such, there has been a fairly strict dress code meant to represent the formality of the legislative chamber.

But fewer Americans wear formal attire these days … so is it time to roll back the dress code? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thinks so.

The Fetterman factor

When Pennsylvanians voted to elect Democrat John Fetterman as their newest senator, they knew what they were getting. He has a penchant for wearing ultra-casual clothes including hooded sweatshirts and basketball shorts.

This stands in stark contrast to the decorum historically associated with the upper chamber of Congress, though, and a number of his fellow senators have bristled at his appearance on the Senate floor.

Schumer took a different approach to the situation by announcing an effort to roll back existing standards, thus allowing Fetterman (and the other 99 senators) to essentially dress as they wish.

Bipartisan backlash

An overwhelming majority of Republican senators signed a letter to Schumer urging him to reconsider a casual dress code that “disrespects the institution we serve and the American families we represent.”

One GOP lawmaker even joked about wearing a bikini to work.

And at least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, said that rolling back the standards “degrades” the chamber.

There have also been several op-ed pieces written for prominent news outlets that slam the decision, including one that predicts “attention-seeking lawmakers will don T-shirts emblazoned with the names and mascots of their hometown sport franchises — or inflammatory partisan messages.”

As for Fetterman, he thinks the controversy is “mystifying,” adding that there are “much more important kinds of issues we should be addressing."

Chris Agee
Chris Agee September 21st, 2023
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