Earlier in July, reporter Haley Byrd was kicked out of the Speaker’s Lobby, an area of the Capitol near where the House of Representatives meet and reporters conduct interviews, for wearing a sleeveless dress. Byrd’s bare shoulders were in violation of a long-standing House rule that was just not enforced. In a stunning act of common sense, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said he will “modernize” the dress code for people in that particular hallway.
Ryan held a press conference to say the dress code, which also bars women from wearing open-toed shoes, will be updated:
“Decorum is important, especially for this institution, and a dress code in the chamber and in the lobby makes sense. But we also don’t need to bar otherwise accepted contemporary business attire, so look for a change on that soon.”
Ryan was quick to say that the rules had been in place and were not his creation after receiving negative publicity over enforcing a rule that can be interpreted as sexist.
“The sergeant-at-arms was simply enforcing the same interpretation of the rules as under my predecessors,” Ryan said. “This is nothing new and it’s certainly not something that I devised.”
He added: “But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that enforcement couldn’t stand to be a bit modernized. So that is why we will be working with the sergeant-at-arms to ensure the enforcement of appropriate business attire is updated.”
The rules, which apply to members of Congress as well as the reporters covering them, had been receiving more and more attention, including from women in the House of Representatives. Arizona Rep. Martha McSally recently pointed out that she was violating the rule while holding the floor.
“Before I yield back, I want to point out I’m standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes,” she said.