Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has directed the Senate’s Sergeant-at-Arms to stop enforcement of the dress code, a change that will go into effect next week, according to multiple news outlets.
The irony is the change will apply only to the 100 senators, not the Capitol Hill staffers who accompany them on a workday inside chambers.
“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit,” Schumer said in a statement to Axios.
Fetterman, now a first-term Democrat senator, suffered a debilitating stroke last year just days before a primary election for the nomination. The severity of the stroke was kept quiet when voters went to the polls, and his inability to communicate was hidden for months, too, until an NBC News reporter spilled the beans.
Fetterman then narrowly won a much-publicized Senate race against TV physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, giving Democrats a badly-needed seat in the split Senate.
Fetterman is known for choosing a casual gym trip look over more formal clothing. He initially followed the Senate dress code of suits, but since returning from treatment for clinical depression has more often opted for a more casual look, Axios reported.
It is not clear from media reports if Sen. Schumer changed the dress code for Fetterman's mental health but his acquiesce to hoodies and gym shorts has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I’m not a big fan of this myself, I don’t think they should,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarbrough said. “I’m about tradition, I think they should keep the tradition. Don’t loosen it up. I don’t want people going on the floor wearing whatever they want to wear.”
“It bothers me big-time. It’s about tradition, discipline, organization and a show of strength. I mean, it’s a joke,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) said of the rule change.
“This is obviously all because of John Fetterman,” O.W. Root, a culture researcher, said on American Family Radio Tuesday. “It’s clear disrespect. There are millions of people every day in America who show up to work who have to make an effort to dress somewhat decently because they’re required to … and John Fetterman is a senator.”
Fetterman is not the only senator to handle business in sub-standard Senate attire, but he’s the one whose frequency of casual dress has been the subject of news stories.
The U.S. Senate is famous for its rules and traditions, including a rule that men wear a coat and tie. It’s unclear if that’s an official Senate dress code or if it’s an informal custom enforced by the sergeant-at-arms, Axios reported.
Senators who have rushed to the Senate Building from travel, or from the gym or any other potential scheduling conflict, have been able to cast up or down thumb votes then step back out of the chamber. Fetterman is not the only senator to have voted this way but he is the one most often seen in the building in a hoodie and shorts.
It is not "physically impossible" for Fetterman to put on a suit and wear it to work, Root stressed, especially since he has worn one before.
Fetterman’s official Senate portrait taken earlier this year shows him in a gray suit, a white shirt and a blue tie.
“[Fetterman] can't even manage to wear some of the most bare minimum dress of decency when serving in the government of the United States of America, the most powerful empire in the entire world. This is just another step we see in the general cultural decay and degeneration,” Root told show host Jenna Ellis.
Those familiar with Fetterman’s career say he has adopted his extreme casual manner of dress at every stop, first as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania before becoming lieutenant governor.
Root argues the standard of dress in the U.S. Senate is psychologically important. People throughout history made an effort to dress appropriately because they knew it it showed dignity and respect, and to lose that respect shows a lowering of standards.
"Our clothes not only reflect our trajectory they can also reaffirm or accelerate that trajectory," Root said. "When we dress with a sense of dignity and decency, it uplifts us. When we dress with a sense of degradation and slobbishness, it sends us down."
In the case of Pennsylvania's junior senator, Root says Fetterman is okay with forcing the U.S. Senate to change its rules just for him rather than following its rules. That says a lot about his character, he concludes.