The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a formal dress code on Wednesday, effectively ending months of speculation and controversy surrounding the chamber's dress rules. The resolution, titled the "SHORTS Act", was introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) in response to a recent change by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to relax enforcement of the traditional business attire requirement.
Schumer, who directed the Senate's sergeant-at-arms to no longer enforce the dress code, sparked backlash and jokes when members were seen wearing casual attire on the Senate floor. The change quickly became known as "The Fetterman Rule," in reference to freshman Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) and his habit of wearing hoodies and gym shorts.
"We all learned that there were not — in fact — any written rules about what Senators could and could not wear on the floor of the Senate," said Manchin, explaining the need for an official dress code. "So Senator Romney and I got together and we thought maybe it's time that we finally codify something that was the precedented rule for 234 years."
Sen. Fetterman presides over U.S. Senate for first time since Sen. Schumer said Senate will no longer enforce its dress code for members pic.twitter.com/2epbmOoxmW
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) September 20, 2023
The resolution requires men to wear a "coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants" on the Senate floor and gives the sergeant-at-arms the authority to enforce the dress code. However, the rule can be changed with a two-thirds majority vote from the chamber.
Schumer gave brief remarks before presenting the resolution, stating that "the events over the past week have made us all feel as though formalizing [the dress code] is the right path forward." He also expressed gratitude to Fetterman for working with him and Manchin to come to an understanding.
In response, Fetterman released a "statement" with a promotional image of Kevin James shrugging in his "King of Queens" sitcom, which has recently gone viral as an internet meme.
The controversy began when Schumer directed the sergeant-at-arms to stop enforcing the informal dress code, sparking jokes and criticism from both sides of the aisle. The Washington Post editorial board also criticized the change, which did not apply to staff members.
Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman released the following statement on the Senate Dress Code Resolution passing: pic.twitter.com/WWD2wm8YDT
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) September 27, 2023
Fetterman, who has openly discussed his struggles with depression, had previously found a way around the dress code by voting from the doorway of the Democratic cloakroom or side entrance. However, last week he presided over the Senate wearing a short-sleeve button-down shirt, no tie, shorts, and sneakers, and also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the same attire.
Under the resolution, Fetterman has agreed to wear a suit when entering the Senate chamber but will be allowed to continue voting in casual attire from the cloakroom.
As the dress code matter comes to a close, the Senate can now focus on more pressing issues facing the nation.