By Kaitlyn Schallhorn
Published November 20, 2018
Since 1837, Congress hasn’t allowed hats on the House floor. But a group of Democrats are hoping to change that rule to ensure religious headwear is exempted.
House Democrats unveiled a draft rules package Thursday detailing how they would govern the chamber when they take over the majority in Congress next year. Among them is a proposed clarification of a 181-year-old rule against wearing hats on the House floor to allow for religious headwear, including headscarves.
The change was reportedly spearheaded by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; and Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Omar, who is Muslim, wears a headscarf.
“No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice – one protected by the First Amendment,” Omar said in a tweet. “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.”
Omar and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, will make history as the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
Congress banned members from wearing hats while on the House floor in September 1837. At the time, members and guests regularly wore hats during sessions.
Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, known for her wide collection of hats, tried to get the rule evoked in 2010, calling it “sexist,” according to the Miami Herald.
“It dates back to when men wore hats and we know that men don't wear hats indoors, but women wear hats indoors,” Wilson said. “Hats are what I wear. People get excited when they see the hats. Once you get accustomed to it, it's just me. Some people wear wigs, or high heel shoes or big earrings or pins. This is just me.”
While her efforts were unsuccessful, a spokesman for then-House Speaker John Boehner told PolitiFact: “The rule regarding hats has never been interpreted to apply to religious headcoverings.”
The proposed rule change was heralded by Pelosi as something that will “further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”
“We are committed to ensuring that the People’s House truly reflects the beautiful diversity of the American people whom it is our great honor to serve,” she said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, also offered her support for the change on social media.
The draft rules package, unveiled last week, is traditionally the first vote of the new Congress. It is considered a reflection of a party’s priorities and influences legislation.
The topics touch on several areas — budgeting, oversight, diversity and the legislative process, among others. And many of the proposed rules sweep away those Republicans had put in place when they took over the majority after the 2010 elections.
The package remains a work in progress, aides said. McGovern has been convening lawmakers for weeks to gather input, and the 12-page document is stamped throughout with invitations — “Your Idea Here” — for more input.