By Russell Berman and Mike Lillis - 03/29/12 04:45 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday defended the removal of a House Democrat from the floor who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt in violation of House rules.
Boehner is known as a stickler for proper attire, and he said the rules were “enforced evenly” when Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) was asked to leave the House floor Wednesday after he addressed the chamber while wearing a hoodie to protest the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.
While Boehner has occasionally admonished members to follow the dress code, it is not universally enforced. When a reporter pointed out that female members of Congress have been known to wear hats on the House floor in violation of the ban, the Speaker replied, “I’ve not witnessed that, and I think women members know that that’s in violation of the rules.”
Earlier Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a different view on the incident and the House dress code. She said all members "have a responsibility to serve with dignity," but how members dress is "fairly irrelevant" relative to what they do.
"I don't pay a lot of attention to it, to tell you the honest truth," Pelosi said. "I'm more concerned about what they say on the floor and the policies they put forth that are relevant to the lives of the American people."
Pelosi said any enforcement policies should be consistent.
"If you're going to enforce it, enforce it. But don't be selective about it," she said. "I still wonder why women can't wear hats on the floor."
Pelosi said 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 that he was out of order.
"He quickly left the floor [and] he wasn't contentious about it," she added. "But he made his point. He called attention to a situation in our country that needs to be addressed in a way that a man in a suit and tie might not be able to do."
This story was updated at 1:58 p.m.