Senate Republicans sign letter fuming over ‘disrespectful’ relaxed dress code

Every member of the Republican Senate caucus — minus three — signed the letter

Graig Graziosi
Wednesday 20 September 2023 14:45 EDT

Related video: New Dress Code Era: Sen. Fetterman (D-PA) currently presiding over the Senate in shorts and short-sleeve shirt, no tie.

Republican senators are upset with a new, relaxed dress code policy for the chamber, and have sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to express their displeasure.

Mr Schumer recently asked the Senate sergeant-at-arms to stop enforcing the established dress code on the chamber floor, according to an Axios report. Some Republicans — including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — believe the move was made to accommodate Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who is known for wearing shorts and hoodies in his official appearances.

“The Senate is a place of honor and tradition, and the Senate floor is where we conduct the business of the American people. It is where we debate the policies which impact every American family and, when necessary, it is where we must make the gravest decision imaginable – whether to send our fellow Americans into battle to defend the freedoms we all hold dear. The world watches us on that floor and we must protect the sanctity of that place at all costs,” the senators wrote in the letter.

The letter goes on to say that "allowing casual clothing...disrespects the institution we serve and the American families we represent," even though most Americans dress more like Mr Fetterman than they do the typical senator.

"We, the undersigned members of the United States Senate, write to express our supreme disappointment and resolute disapproval of your recent decision to abandon the Senate’s longstanding dress code for members, and urge you to immediately reverse this misguided action,” the letter said, according to CNN.

Every member of the Republican Senate caucus — minus Senators Katie Boyd Britt, Mike Braun, and Josh Hawley — signed the letter.

The Senate does not and did not have a formal dress code. It is custom to wear business attire — coat and tie for men, dresses with covered shoulders or pantsuits for women — but it is not a rule. Senators have voted before while in street clothes, though typically they do so without stepping on the floor, often voting from just outside the chamber or in the adjacent cloakroom.

Republican Senator Susan Collins joked that she planned to wear a bikini to the next Senate gathering "because there's no dress code anymore."

Despite not being a senator, Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene complained about the new policy. Ms Greene — who showed nude photos of Hunter Biden during House committee hearings and heckled Joe Biden during his State of the Union — said that dress code enforcement "is one of society's standards that set etiquette and respect for our institutions."

Senator Tina Smith fired back at her on X/Twitter.

"Seriously? You’re b****ing about Senate dress code when House Republicans are about to drive the Federal Government off a cliff? Again?" she wrote. "Talk about disgraceful."

Mr Fetterman commented on the backlash from Republicans, calling out Congresswoman Lauren Boebert's highly publicised ejection from a Denver theatre for vaping and preforming lewd acts with her date during a performance of the "Beetlejuice" musical.

“I figure if I take up vaping and grabbing the hog during a live musical, they’ll make me a folk hero,” Mr Fetterman wrote on X/Twitter.

When Mr DeSantis commented on the Senate's dress code change, he specifically called out Mr Fetterman, saying the senator has "a lot of problems" and insisting the way he dresses is "dumbing down" the chamber's standards.

Mr Fetterman replied on X/Twitter that "I dress like [Mr DeSantis] campaigns."

The senator ultimately said he was "grateful" for the change in enforcement and encouraged his colleagues to focus on more important issues.

“I mean, there’s certainly much more important kinds of issues we should be addressing instead of, like, how if I dress like a bum,” he told CNN this week.

One of those issues is the looming government shutdown threatened by a Republican-controlled House. Mr Fetterman offered to "save democracy" by wearing a suit to the Senate floor if the House Republicans don't force another shutdown.

Regardless, Mr Fetterman seems to be taking the criticism in stride. He even used the controversy to plug his merchandise.

“We can all agree: Nobody should take fashion advice from me,” he wrote on X/Twitter. “But in case you want to, new merch dropping soon.”

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