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US Senate passes dress code bill as govt shutdown looms

Lazy eyes listen


On Wednesday, the United States Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan motion to reinstate a long-standing dress code rule that male senators wear long trousers. Democratic Senator John Fetterman’s gym shorts and hoodie outfit was thought to be the resolution’s aim.

Senate Resolution 376, the SHow Our Respect to the Senate (SHORTS) Act, was introduced by Democrat Senator Joe Manchin, co-sponsored by Republican Senator Mitt Romney, and sailed through Wednesday’s vote without a single senator’s vocal opposition, despite disagreements between and within both parties delaying the passage of spending bills needed to keep the government open until the end of September.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced earlier this month that the chamber’s traditional dress code – policed by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms but apparently not written anywhere into the rules or laws governing official business – would no longer be enforced for senators.

While Schumer himself pledged to “continue to wear a suit” despite demolishing the “business attire” standard that Senate aides were still required to observe, several dozen Republican senators and even Schumer’s fellow Democrat Manchin immediately spoke out against the move.

Allowing casual clothing on the Senate floor disrespects the institution we serve and the American families we represent,” an open letter to Schumer signed by 46 of his colleagues insisted, urging the New York Democrat to “immediately reverse this misguided action.” 

Before going to Washington last year, Fetterman was known for his hoodie-and-gym-shorts outfit while serving as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor. While he initially wore a suit on the Senate floor, since his release from a lengthy hospitalisation for clinical depression earlier this year, he has taken advantage of the opportunity extended by Schumer to resume wearing his preferred casual clothing for work, much to the chagrin of some of his colleagues. Prior to the removal of the clothing requirement, those in violation were obliged to vote from outside the chamber.

Detractors have long accused Fetterman of wearing his self-described “slob” uniform to promote a phoney working-class character, pointing out that it was his privileged past – with parents who financially supported him into his 40s – that allowed him to do so.

While the Senate triumphed over sartorial anarchy, the House remained deadlocked over the budget bills needed to keep Washington running past Saturday. Republicans in the House have rejected the Senate’s shutdown-avoidance proposal, which would only fund the government through November 17, and instead plan to pass a series of their own spending bills on Thursday and Friday.