In case John Boehner doesn’t have enough to worry about, he’s about to meet Frederica Wilson.
Wilson, elected to Congress last week, plans to wear her trademark wide-brimmed hats when she goes to Congress whether there’s a rule against wearing hats on the floor of the House or not, she told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday.
“I’m just going to dress the way I normally dress,” Wilson said. “If they tell me I can’t, well, there’s going to be a problem.”
It may be that wearing hats on the floor of the United States House is prohibited, though Wilson said she would find it hard to believe that was the case for women.
Washington newspaper Roll Call, taking note of Wilson’s penchant for wearing hats during her time in the Legislature, noted last week that there has been a rule on the books since 1837 banning the wearing of caps or hats on the floor of the U.S. House.
How stringently the rule is enforced is another matter. The News Service was able to turn up a report of it being actually enforced only once – a news story from 2000 said Rep. Major Owens of New York was asked to remove a baseball cap while on the floor. Roll Call, reported, however, that the late New York Rep. Bella Abzug, who wore hats almost everywhere else, didn’t wear them on the floor.
Wilson, a Miami Democrat, said she believes the rules for congressional dress are like rules in the Florida Legislature, largely up to the presiding officer. And she plans to meet with presumed House Speaker John Boehner this weekend.
Wilson, not known for being shy, plans to advise Boehner that she intends to wear hats – not ask him for permission. “I’m not going to ask anyone,” Wilson said, adding that she was very much looking forward to meeting the presumptive speaker.
Wilson has been through this once before. When she was elected to the state Senate in 2002, former Sen. Anna Cowin raised the issue of whether members were allowed to wear hats on the floor. Then Senate President Jim King asked Cowin if there was a good reason why they shouldn’t be.
“She said I might be sitting in front of somebody and they might not be able to see,” Wilson recalled Wednesday.
Wilson was a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican Senate. “She’s going to be sitting on the back row anyway,” Wilson recalled King saying in dismissing the issue.
Wilson also served in the House from 1998 to 2002 and longtime Capitol observers have never seen her without her trademark hats, one in just about every color.
Wilson will resign from the Senate before the end of the year, and a special election will be set to name her replacement.
She will, however, miss the special session to override vetoes that legislative leaders have called for next week because she has to attend an orientation for newly elected members of Congress in Washington, which she’s disappointed about.
“I wanted to be there, I wanted to sit in my Senate seat one last time,” Wilson said.
By David Royse
The News Service of Florida