Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) says he is “concerned” about a decision to loosen the Senate’s dress code to allow senators to wear whatever they want on the chamber floor, arguing “we need to have standards.”
Durbin, the No. 2-ranking Senate Democrat and chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, signaled he’s not ready to let hoodies, blue jeans or shorts become the norm on the Senate floor, which has been the venue of many important historic moments over the years.
“Well, I’m concerned about it,” Durbin told “The Briefing with Steve Scully” on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel, when asked about the recent change in the rules of decorum.
Durbin acknowledged that changing the Senate’s dress code would accommodate his colleague, first-term Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who’s well-known for wearing a hoodie and shorts instead of a business suit like most senators, but suggested the issue is bigger than one senator.
“The senator in question from Pennsylvania is a personal friend, but I think we need to have standards when it comes to what we’re wearing on the floor of the Senate, and we’re in the process of discussing that right now as to what those standards will be,” Durbin told the show.
His interview will air Friday.
Durbin said he doesn’t know what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was thinking when he approved the change but said he planned to speak to his leader about the matter.
“I can’t understand exactly what he was thinking at that point,” he said, when asked why Schumer made the change. “I want to give him the benefit of the doubt until I speak to him but I think the Senate needs to act on this.”
The Post’s editorial writers opined: “One would have thought that, with public trust in government waning, the Senate might want to avoid looking even a tiny bit more like a high school cafeteria.”
The influential hometown paper described the Senate floor as the “most sacred space” in the Capitol and noted it was the setting for “America’s most consequential debates on war and peace, freedom and slavery.”
Until now, senators were required to wear coats and ties or business attire, and those who didn’t meet that standard had to vote from the cloakrooms just off the floor by sticking their heads into the chamber to vote “yea” or “nay.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Tuesday Republican senators would continue to “dress up to go to work.”
“I think I’m pretty safe in saying most if not all Republican senators think we ought to dress up to go to work. So I can’t imagine that we’re going to be wearing jeans on the Senate floor anytime soon,” he said.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, grumbled that Schumer is failing to show due respect to the Senate as an institution.
“Sen. Schumer has done just about everything he can to destroy the traditions of the Senate, everything from eliminating the filibuster rule to now this. And for what? To accommodate one person who doesn’t like to put on a suit?” Cornyn said.
Schumer said while senators can wear what they want on the floor, he will continue to wear a suit.
Senate staff and visitors will still be required to wear a coat and tie or business attire on the floor.