Pelosi: Rep. Bobby Rush 'Deserves a Great Deal of Credit for the Courage' to Break House Rules

By Michael W. Chapman | March 29, 2012 | 4:25 PM EDT

( – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) deserved a "great deal of credit for the courage" he displayed in wearing a hoodie and sunglasses to honor shooting vicitm Trayvon Martin on the House floor Wednesday and, at the same time, breaking the dress code rules of the House of Representatives.

Pelosi added that she does not "pay a whole lot of attention" to the congressional dress code."

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At a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, a reporter asked Pelosi, “What do you think of Bobby Rush’s move yesterday on the floor?”

Pelosi first said, “The hoodie? Didn’t I talk about that yesterday, remember the pantsuits and all that?” and then continued,  “I think that Bobby Rush deserves a great deal of credit for the courage he had to go to the floor in a hoodie knowing that he would be told he was out of order, and he quickly left the floor. He wasn’t contentious about it."


Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., wears a hoodie on the House floor on March 28, 2012 to show his support for the family of Trayvon Martin. Rush was reprimanded for violating the rules on wearing hats in the House chamber. (AP Photo/House Television)

“But he made his point,” the former House speaker said.  “He called attention to a situation in our country that needs to be addressed in a way that a man in a suit and a tie might not be able to do.”


Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black male who was shot dead allegedly by 28-year-old Hispanic George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., in late February, a case that recently has sparked national attention and racial tensions.

In a follow-up question, a different reporter reminded Pelosi that she had not seemed too concerned about the dress code on the House floor in her remarks on Wednesday and noted that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had written a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about enforcing the dress code consistently.  The reporter asked, “Do you think it is currently being enforced across the board?”

Pelosi said,  “I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it, to tell you the truth.  I mean, I really don’t.  I do think that, respecting, any one of us will tell you that the biggest honor we can ever have in Congress is to represent our districts, to do so with dignity, and that includes how we come to the floor. Sometimes members are just coming in off the plane like that and they run to make a vote and they vote in the back of the room without a suit.”

“But as I said yesterday, I’m more concerned with what they say on the floor and the policies they put forth that are relevant to the lives of the American people,” said Pelosi.  “This [dress code], I think, falls into the fairly irrelevant. But all of us have the responsibility to serve with dignity. And yes, if you’re going to enforce it, enforce it, but don’t be selective about it. And still I wonder why women can’t wear hats on the floor, but –.”

In his remarks yesterday about Trayvon Martin, made while he changed into the hoodie and sunglasses, Rep. Rush said, “Just because one wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”  As Rush continued speaking, the chairman, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) repeatedly banged his gavel and called on Rush to desist.

Rep. Harper then reminded 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.”

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Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman