Wearing A Hoodie Doesn’t Make You A Hoodlum, But Wearing One On The House Floor Makes You A Disgrace

March 28, 2012 - 3:50 PM

“Just because one wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum,” Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) declared as he donned a hoodie and sunglasses on the House floor – at which point the session’s chair called the sergeant-at-arms to enforce the House rule on decorum.

In a theatrical stunt to comment on the controversy surrounding the shooting of hooded Trayvon Martin, Rep. Rush pulled a hoodie over his head and went on a rant.

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), the session’s chair, repeatedly banged his gavel and called for Rush to desist. “The gentleman will suspend,” Harper said. “The member is no longer recognized,” Harper added.

Rep. Harper eventually called on the sergeant-at-arms to intervene: “The chair asks the Sergeant At Arms to enforce the prohibition of decorum.”

He then reminded House members of the House rule banning hats:

“Clause five of rule 17 prohibits the wearing of hats in the chamber when the House is in session. The chair finds that the donning of a hood is not consistent with this rule. Members need to remove their hoods or leave the floor.”

Here’s the House rule on decorum Harper appears to be citing:

Comportment

5. When the Speaker is putting a question or addressing the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not walk out of or across the Hall. When a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner is speaking, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not pass between the person speaking and the Chair. During the session of the House, a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner may not wear a hat or remain by the Clerk’s desk during the call of the roll or the counting of ballots. A person on the floor of the House may not smoke or use a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum. The Sergeant-at-Arms is charged with the strict enforcement of this clause.”

Note that the hat embargo may apply only “during the call of role or the counting of ballots.” So, if neither one of those things was happening, Rep. Rush may be innocent on a technicality on the charge of violating House decorum.

So, I contacted the House Rules Committee and asked about this. Here’s the committee’s reply:

“Please see below – the highlighted portion is what Rep. Rush was in violation of…

From opening day this year:

6. Decorum in Debate

The Chair's announced policies of January 7, 2003, January 4, 1995, and January 3, 1991, will apply in the 112th Congress. It is essential that the dignity of the proceedings of the House be preserved, not only to assure that the House conducts its business in an orderly fashion but also to permit Members to properly comprehend and participate in the business of the House. To this end, and in order to permit the Chair to understand and to correctly put the question on the numerous requests that are made by Members, the Chair requests that Members and others who have the privileges of the floor desist from audible conversation in the Chamber while the business of the House is being conducted. The Chair would encourage all Members to review rule XVII to gain a better understanding of the proper rules of decorum expected of them, and especially: to avoid ``personalities'' in debate with respect to references to other Members, the Senate, and the President; to address the Chair while standing and only during, and not beyond, the time recognized, and not to address the television or other imagined audience; to refrain from passing between the Chair and a Member speaking, or directly in front of a Member speaking from the well; to refrain from smoking in the Chamber; to wear appropriate business attire in the Chamber; and to generally display the same degree of respect to the Chair and other Members that every Member is due.”

This clause calls for House members to respect the authority of the chair, and to wear appropriate business attire – which Rush clearly did not.

So, no, wearing a hoodie doesn’t make you a hoodlum.

But, if you do it on the House floor while disrespecting the session’s chair, it does make you an embarrassment.

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