Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is questioning the decision by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to relax the Senate floor dress code.
“I’m concerned about it,” Mr. Durbin said of the new dress code during a recent interview with Sirius XM radio show “The Briefing with Steve Scully.”
Mr. Schumer’s decision to relax the dress code policy has widely been seen as one to accommodate Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who suffered a stroke before he won his seat in the 2022 midterm election and was absent from the Senate for two months while undergoing treatment for major depression. Mr. Fetterman has frequently worn hoodies, shorts, and short-sleeve shirts at the U.S. Capitol, but had been unable to field such apparel during Senate floor proceedings until Mr. Schumer instructed the Senate Sergeant at Arms to stop forcing senators to abide by strict standards of appearance.
“The senator in question from Pennsylvania is a personal friend,” Mr. Durbin said without directly naming Mr. Fetterman. “But I think we need to have standards when it comes to what we are wearing on the floor of the Senate.”
Mr. Fetterman not only wore a button-down short-sleeve shirt and shorts on the Senate floor on Wednesday but actually led floor proceedings from the Senate rostrum for a time while wearing the casual attire.
Fetterman Trades Jabs With Republicans
The decision to relax the dress code has been met with criticism from many Republicans and conservatives, who said the move diminishes the sense of decorum and reverence of the body.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said the announcement of the relaxed dress code marked “a sad day in the Senate.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joked that she could test just how serious Mr. Schumer is about permitting casual wear by taking her own choice of clothing to the extreme. “I plan to wear a bikini tomorrow to the Senate floor,” the 70-year-old said on Monday.
Mr. Fetterman has responded to much of this criticism with insults.
After Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized the dress code and said “We need to be lifting up our standards in this country, not dumbing down,” Mr. Fetterman appeared to mock Mr. DeSantis’s second-place standing in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, stating in a post on the X social media platform, “I dress like he campaigns.”
Mr. Fetterman also mocked the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which remains undecided on a 2024 budget while the threat of a government shutdown looms. There are several points of division among the Republican majority in the House, including over limits on discretionary spending and funding for Ukrainian military forces.
“If those jagoffs in the House stop trying to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine, then I will save democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week,” Mr. Fetterman wrote in another X post on Wednesday.
Durbin Wants to Revisit Senate Dress Code
The Senate Majority Whip indicated he is not settled by the current relaxed dress code and wants to discuss the issue further.
“We’re in the process of discussing that right now, as to what the standards will be,” he said.
While senators are permitted a more casual appearance on the Senate floor under Mr. Schumer’s new policy, Senate staff will still be held to the same dress standards as the previous dress policy.
When asked what led Mr. Schumer to adopt the new dress code, Mr. Durbin said, “I can’t understand exactly what he was thinking at that point.”
“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,” Mr. Durbin added.
NTD reached out to Mr. Schumer’s office for details about the dress code but his office has not responded for comment.