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Senators nix casual clothing as bipartisan resolution sets new dress code for Senate floor

Sen. John Fetterman, wearing shorts, walks on Capitol Hill
Mark Schiefelbein
Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., walks on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Washington.

No shorts on the Senate floor.

The Senate voted Wednesday evening to reverse an informal guidance issued by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week that senators could wear what they want when voting or speaking in the chamber. The resolution, passed by voice vote with no objections, requires that ”business attire be worn on the floor of the Senate, which for men shall include a coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants.” It did not specify what women should wear.

The bipartisan resolution by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, comes after backlash to Schumer’s announcement that staff for the chamber’s Sergeant-at-Arms would no longer enforce a dress code on the Senate floor. The guidance came as Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman has been unapologetically wearing shorts and sweatshirts around the Senate, voting from doorways so he didn’t walk on the chamber floor and get in trouble for his casual dress.

“Though we’ve never had an official dress code, the events over the past week have made us all feel as though formalizing one is the right path forward,” Schumer said Wednesday evening, as the resolution by Manchin and Romney passed.

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Schumer also thanked Fetterman for ”working with me to come to an agreement that we all find acceptable.”

The majority leader’s original guidance last week was met with immediate pushback in the more formal Senate, with many lawmakers in both parties arguing that the Senate floor should have some standards for dress. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he was “concerned” about it. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that senators “ought to dress up to go to work.” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, jokingly declared she would wear a bikini to work the next day.

Fetterman mocked the critics, telling reporters that senators should be focusing on more important things. But he also said that he may not even take advantage of the change. Shortly after the guidance was released, a shorts-wearing Fetterman voted from the doorway, telling reporters that it was “nice to have the option” but he didn’t plan on overusing it.

Senators praised the bipartisan change after it was passed on Wednesday evening.

″God bless COMMON SENSE,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, posted on X, formerly Twitter.