Home » Senate Majority Leader changes Senate dress code, prompting dispute

Senate Majority Leader changes Senate dress code, prompting dispute

by Amber McDown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has quietly altered the informal dress code for senators, allowing them to wear attire of their choice on the Senate floor. The change is set to take effect starting Monday, following a notice sent to the Senate sergeant-at-arms and relevant staff members late Friday.

Although the Senate has historically followed an informal dress code overseen by the sergeant-at-arms, which traditionally required business attire for both men and women, this standard was not a formal written policy. Consequently, senators have occasionally been seen wearing unconventional attire such as gym clothes or golf outfits on the Senate floor.

The change impacts senators directly, allowing them the option to wear whatever they want in the Senate chamber. However, Senate staff are still obligated to adhere to the previous business dress code. Additionally, visitors to the Senate floor, apart from senators, must maintain business attire, involving a jacket and tie for men.

This alteration sparked dissent from a group of 46 Senate Republicans who penned a letter to Majority Leader Schumer, urging him to reverse the relaxed dress code decision. 

“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.

“Allowing casual clothing on the Senate floor disrespects the institution we serve and the American families we represent. 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 senators concluded. 

The controversy surrounding the dress code change underlines differing perspectives within the Senate, with concerns raised by both Democrats and Republicans regarding the maintenance of decorum and the preservation of the Senate’s time-honored traditions.

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