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Could Reid Sport Shades on Senate Floor?

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid can sport his sunglasses inside , but can he wear such wayfarers on the Senate floor?  

The question, provoked by the dark shades the Nevada Democrat donned during a Tuesday news conference, is dictated by precedent, based on a variety of established rules, customary practices and ad hoc arrangements made to suit specific circumstances.

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Traditions of the United States Senate,” the official tome on precedents, establishes that the presiding officer is in charge of enforcing “decorum.” However, that section sticks to hissing, spitting, name calling and desktop floral arrangements, with no details on dress code.  

University of Miami’s Gregory Koger, a political scientist who specializes in legislative procedure, said in an email that the closest thing he could find was the “Rules for Regulation of the Senate” portion of the Senate Manual.

But there appears to be no ban on sunglasses or mention of clothes at all. Koger speculated that political norms might be sufficient for such circumstances. “[The] Senate needs no rules against wearing flip flops and a bathing suit on the Senate floor because no sane senator would do so,” he said.

On the other side of the Capitol, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has had to scold members for showing up to votes in what he regards as improper garb. In March 2014, he reminded members to “wear appropriate business attire during all sittings of the House, however brief their appearance on the floor might be, and you know who you are.”

A source within the Senate indicated the presiding officer would let it slide if Reid showed up in shades, and said sunglasses had been allowed for medical purposes in the past.  

Related: Reid Wears His Sunglasses Inside Boehner Reminds Members to Dress Appropriately: ‘You Know Who You Are’ (Video) The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

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