Republicans and conservatives hate change generally. And Senate Republicans and conservatives appear to hate one new change in particular: Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s approved change to the chamber’s sartorial standards, which calls for the sergeant-at-arms to stop enforcing the dress code for its members.
“There has been an informal dress code that was enforced,” Schumer said in a statement. “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit,” said the majority leader.
Previously, senators were required to suit up when conducting business on the Senate floor, though senators routinely circumvented the requisite business attire by voting with one foot on the senate floor and one foot in the cloak room, a tactic Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, regularly employs when voting in his gym clothes after a workout.
The change brought a predictable roar of faux outrage from the political right, with Fox News dedicating segments on several of their primetime shows to bashing Senator John Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, who prefers hoodies and gym shorts to the buttoned-up look typical of lawmakers in the upper chamber of Congress.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, joked to reporters on Monday that she would wear a bikini to work on Tuesday. “Obviously, I’m not going to wear a bikini,” Collins clarified. “But the fact is, as I understand it, I could!”
Other GOP senators were quick to pile on with derisive comments of their own to NBC News reporter Frank Thorp. “It bothers me big time,” said Senator Tommy Tuberville of the new dress code. “You got people walking around in shorts … that don’t fly with me,” Tuberville added in an apparent jab at Fetterman. Senate Chuck Grassley echoed Tuberville’s disdain. “It stinks,” said the senior senator from Iowa.
Tuberville, of course, while so worried about the debasement of the Senate if people wear shorts, has done a little debasing of his own recently, with his weeks-long hold on top military officials over the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
The New Republic asked Democrats on Tuesday if the Senate could possibly survive Schumer’s change to the centuries old dress code. “If we can’t, then we have a lot more problems than anybody can imagine,” laughed Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Asked what she makes of the right-wing outrage over such a seemingly innocuous thing as what people wear to work, Hirono didn’t waffle. “It’s sort of par for the course in my view regarding the right wing and what they constitute as moral outrage. I disagree with what they consider to be outrageous.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut echoed Hirono about the faux outrage over the Senate’s dress code. “There are so many efforts to distract and deter, ranging from the trivial like dress codes to the more important like impeachment,” he said. “It seems like the right-wing fringe is over a cliff on basic sanity,” Blumenthal continued, before noting that the dress code isn’t exactly top of mind. “I haven’t really thought at all about the dress code because I’m going to keep wearing a suit and tie.”
Senator Chris Murphy echoed his Connecticut colleague. “I’ve not even been briefed on the dress code changes,” he said. “I’ve only read stories and tweets about it, so I haven’t really given it any thought. I’ve been engaged in things that matter a lot more than this.”
Georgia’s Raphael Warnock, by any measure one of the best-dressed members of the upper chamber, laughed when asked if the Senate could survive the new dress code. “I think the American people want us to keep the government open, so we need to stay focused on that,” he said. Added Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon: “So I have a position on the dress code issue. In the broad sweep of Western civilization, I do not believe this will be one of the major issues.”
For his part, Fetterman said that he will continue to wear a suit when appearing on the Senate floor to conduct official business. “I’ll never understand why anyone really cares how I dress,” said Fetterman. “But I really believe there’s much more important things that we should be working on like, for example, you’ve got Ukraine, you’ve got the shutdown, you’ve got all kinds of things. So I don’t understand the meltdown.”
The junior senator from Pennsylvania’s team has been taking the criticism from the right in stride. “Another great day for Fetterman to live rent free inside of the head of every Republican,” tweeted Joe Calvello, the senator’s press secretary. “Let’s get this bread.”