The nation is talking about South Side Congressman Bobby Rush, who donned a hoodie on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday morning as he talked about racial profiling and the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. He was escorted off the floor by the sergeant at arms for violating the House dress code that prohibits headwear.
In the Washington Post, Trayvon Martin’s parents said they were moved by Rush's actions.
They met with him Tuesday to discuss their son’s case, but had no idea he was going to don a hoodie and speak about the case from the floor of the House.
“I’d like to commend Congressman Rush for pleading our case,” said Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin.
When they were shown a videotape of Rush’s speech after the meeting, they said they were extremely touched by Rush’s actions and were perplexed by why he was interrupted and not allowed to continue discussing racial profiling. They both said they believe their son was killed because of racial profiling.
“Why wasn’t Congressman Rush allowed to address racial profling?” Martin asked. ”This is something that needs to be talked about...This is a country of freedom of speech.”
The dress code is the issue, not the speech, reports The Christian Science Monitor.
The reason for the uproar is that Congress has a dress code. Men are expected to wear coats and ties, and women to wear correspondingly serious clothing. Under House Rule XVII, Section 5, hats are prohibited, and a hoodie is unquestionably a head covering.
“The Sergeant-at-Arms is charged with the strict enforcement of this clause,” concludes that section.
Senior Democrats played down the kerfuffle. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi noted that when she first came to Congress, women were prohibited from wearing pants on the floor. But really, why should the House be such a stickler on items of dress? In the 1830s and 1840s – admittedly, a much more heated era in US history – many lawmakers carried weapons, and violence was not uncommon.
Fox News reports that the dress code has been unevenly enforced in the House, and the head of the Congressional Black Caucus believes Rush should have been cut some slack.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) plans to send a “friendly, hand-written” note to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asking him to enforce the House dress code across the board, he told Fox News Wednesday night. ...
Cleaver says that some CBC members believe that Rush was unfairly singled out because the House routinely allows other members to go to the floor without the proper attire and they are never removed.
“Whenever rules are not enforced, you create the opportunity for somebody to believe they have been singled out,” Cleaver said. “You see during late night votes, people stand in the back with jeans and no jackets and no ties.”
Cleaver indicated that because Rush was speaking about Trayvon Martin, he had hoped that that Speaker Pro Tempore Gregg Harper (R-MS) would have been more lenient with Rush since the House has shown an unevenness in enforcing the rule.
“The presider should have shown more deference,” Cleaver said.
The 1st District congressman — whose district extends from Bronzeville and Englewood to Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Palos, Orland Park, Tinley Park, Frankfort, Mokena and New Lenox, all the way out to rural Elwood — may be well known in Chicago. But the 65-year-old Rush, a Black Panther as a young man in the 1960s, isn't so well known in the rest of the nation.
The Daily Beast reports on his record and possibly his motivation for Wednesday's actions.
Before Wednesday morning, Bobby Rush was best known as the one politician to ever have beaten Barack Obama in an election.
Rush is both a longtime Washington insider and a well-liked representative of Chicago’s South Side, an overwhelmingly Democratic district that boasts the country’s highest percentage of black voters (65 percent). Those two characteristics helped Rush rout the current president when he was challenged as an incumbent in the 2000 election, and also seemed to influence his Wednesday stunt that included a pair of oversized sunglasses. ...
Strong identification with the Trayvon case could also come from a tragedy in Rush’s own life. In the fall of 1999, his 29-year-old son Huey was shot and killed in Rush’s district in Chicago as the incumbent waged his campaign against Obama. The killer got 90 years in prison.
What do you think about Bobby Rush's statement and actions on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday? Should the Speaker have cut the South Side congressman some slack? Take the Patch poll and state your view in the comments.