Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s “Fetterman Rule” is meeting some stiff opposition from Senate Republicans — and at least one Democrat.
As you may recall, earlier this week, Schumer, a New York Democrat, announced he was scrapping the Senate’s longstanding informal dress code. There wasn’t a great clamor, mind you, to do away with the unwritten (but enforced) rule that men dress in a suit and tie while doing business on the upper chamber floor.
It’s just that one of its members, the newly minted Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, prefers gym shorts and hoodies.
For instance, this is what he considers appropriate attire for one of the 100 men and women who make up one of the world’s most powerful deliberative bodies:
John Fetterman speaks at a press conference on the debt ceiling negotiations. pic.twitter.com/yiXDkFQtMY
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) May 18, 2023
“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit,” Schumer said Sunday, according to Axios, which reported that the majority leader “quietly has directed the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms to no longer enforce the chamber’s informal dress code for its members.”
“The change applies only to senators — staff members will still be required to follow the old dress code,” the outlet also noted.
That change hasn’t exactly sat well with most Republicans and at least one Democrat.
According to the New York Post, 46 Republicans sent a letter to Schumer on Tuesday saying that his decision “disrespects the institution.”
“For more than 230 years, the United States Senate has served the American people with honor and dignity. As members of this esteemed body, we understand the seriousness our positions require,” stated the letter, written by Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott.
“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 letter continued.
“The world watches us on that floor and we must protect the sanctity of that place at all costs.”
Permitting “casual clothing on the Senate floor disrespects the institution we serve and the American families we represent,” the letter stated, and urged Schumer “to immediately reverse this misguided action.”
In a post to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Scott linked to the letter and wrote, “The Senate floor is a special place. It’s not hard to show it some respect and dress like a grown up.”
The Senate floor is a special place. It’s not hard to show it some respect and dress like a grown up.https://t.co/jQU6fEwVsa
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) September 19, 2023
Furthermore, Politico’s Ursula Perano confirmed at least one Democrat — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — voiced his disapproval directly to the Pennsylvania senator.
“Manchin tells me he spoke to Fetterman today about the Senate dress code change,” she wrote in an X post published Tuesday.
“I said ‘John, I think it’s wrong & there’s no way I can comply with that’ … Wanted to tell him directly that I totally oppose it and I will do everything I can to try to hold the decorum of the Senate,” Manchin said, according to Perano.
Manchin tells me he spoke to Fetterman today about the Senate dress code change
“I said ‘John, I think it’s wrong & there’s no way I can comply with that’…Wanted to tell him directly that I totally oppose it & I will do everything I can to try to hold the decorum of the Senate”
— Ursula Perano (@UrsulaPerano) September 19, 2023
Another centrist Republican — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, not usually the type to make waves — also publicly blasted the move, in addition to signing on to the letter.
“I plan to wear a bikini tomorrow to the Senate floor and [Delaware Democrat] Chris Coons is gonna wear shorts because there’s no dress code anymore,” she told reporters, according to the Post. She then added: “Obviously, I’m not going to wear a bikini.”
But she could — and that’s the thing with the so-called “Fetterman Rule.”
Centuries of tradition are being discarded solely because one man, John Fetterman, had built an image around wearing Carhartt hoodies and gym shorts because he thought it emphasized his blue-collar bona fides. Whatever.
In May, The Associated Press reported he’d discovered what the AP termed a “workaround.” Fetterman, the news agency reported, “votes from the doorway of the Democratic cloakroom or the side entrance, making sure his ‘yay’ [sic] or ‘nay’ is recorded before ducking back out.”
“The senator’s staff had originally asked him to always wear suits, which he famously hates,” the AP reported. “But after a check with the Senate parliamentarian upon his return, it became clear that he could continue wearing the casual clothes that were often his uniform back at home in Pennsylvania, as long as he didn’t walk on to the Senate floor.”
When referring to his “return,” what’s being discussed is the senator’s hospitalization for depression, which was labeled a side effect of a stroke he suffered just prior to the Democratic primary for Senate last year. That’s obviously an unfortunate situation and one wishes nothing but the best for the senator — but still isn’t a reason to toss the dress code in the garbage.
Numerous lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, past and present, have suffered through mental health issues — current Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Reps. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Ritchie Torres of New York have publicly battled depression and PTSD, according to The Hill.
Former Sens. Lawton Chiles of Florida, Thomas Eagleton of Missouri and Wilbur Mills of Arkansas — all some of the most prominent names in the upper chamber in their time, with Eagleton’s battle with mental illness only being disclosed publicly after he was nominated for vice president in 1972, when treatment options and acceptance were much narrower — battled depression and, in Mills’ case, addiction.
What these individuals all have in common is that they were able to put on attire deemed fitting for a legislator by the rules of their chambers. While the Senate’s rules are unwritten, the rules in the House are codified — and strictly enforced.
In other words, there’s no excuse for the “Fetterman Rule” other than the fact that Chuck Schumer thinks he can get away with it, so he might as well. Well, 46 Republicans and one Democrat don’t concur — and ditching 230 years of tradition just because one guy wants to dress like he’s hanging around his apartment on a Saturday morning, nursing a hangover, isn’t a good look for a man leading the Democratic Party.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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