Senate passes Manchin-Romney dress code resolution in response to Fetterman’s shorts

MORGANTOWN – Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman’s – very few – days of wearing shorts and hoodies on the U.S. Senate floor are over.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Senate unanimously approved a bipartisan resolution from Sens. Joe Manchin and Mitt Romney to codify the Senate dress code.

It’s a short resolution that says, “An individual on the floor of the Senate shall abide by the Senate floor dress code.” That is defined as “a requirement that business attire be worn on the floor of the Senate, which for men shall include a coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants.”

The sergeant at arms is authorized to enforce the rule. Any change to the dress code or its enforcement will require a resolution agreed to by two-thirds of the members of the Senate.

The resolution passed by unanimous consent; if a senator asks for unanimous consent and no one objects, it passes without a vote.

The dress code problem arose last week after Majority Leader Check Schumer instructed Senate floor staff to stop enforcing what had been an unwritten expectation that men wear suits on the floor.

Schumer did this to accommodate Fetterman, who prefers to walk the Capitol halls in shorts and a hoodie. He was casting votes at the Senate doorway in order to avoid changing clothes. Fetterman’s preferences had drawn criticism for reflecting a lack of respect for the Senate and his constituents.

Speaking to the resolution on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Manchin said, “Sen. Fetterman and I have had many conversations and he has worked with me to find a solution.”

It had long been assumed, he said, that there were some basic written rules of conduct, decorum ad civility, including a dress code that shows respect for the Senate and the people they represent.

But a week ago they learned there were no written rules. So he and Romney got together to codify 234 years of precedent.

Romney said on the Senate floor that the resolution was far from their most important task. “Nonetheless, it’s a good thing.” It shows Democrats and Republicans working together.

The Capitol building was endorsed by George Washington, he said. “They could have built a building that looks like a Walmart with La-Z-Boy chairs. Instead, they built this extraordinary edifice with columns and marble.”

They did it to show respect for the institution of the U.S. Government and the people who sacrificed to build the government and the Capitol. And the dress code reflects the dignity and respect for the institution, he said.

The resolution has 32 other cosponsors, including one other Democrat and one Independent. Fetterman was not one of them. But Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who had been critical of Schumer’s move last week, was a cosponsor.

She said Thursday, “I said that right after [the rule change was announced] I was astounded that Chuck Schumer really lowered the standard like that, because I think people respect the institution of the Senate and we have to pay respects with the way that we dress and how we present ourselves. And so I was pleased that the Senate, as a whole body, agreed that there has to be a certain amount of decorum, a certain amount of dress code. And so hopefully we’ve laid that issue to rest.”