Democrats want to change a rule banning House members from wearing hats on the chamber floor to accommodate the first Muslim women to ever be elected to Congress — one of whom wears a headscarf.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rules Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) and congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar of Minnesota are the co-authors of the proposal, which was included as part of a slate of rule changes that Democrats will seek to implement once they assume control of the House next year.
Omar, who was born in Somalia but came to the United States as a refugee, wears a headscarf — something that could fall afoul of the 181-year-old House rule banning members from wearing any kind of hat on the floor. Democrats are proposing changing the rule to allow all religious headwear into the House chamber, though it is unclear whether members of other faiths would take advantage of it.
The proposed change, which House Democrats say is to promote diversity and ensure that the freedom of religious expression is protected on Capitol Hill, effectively doubles as a rebuke of the anti-Muslim rhetoric voiced by Republican candidates in several 2018 midterm races. It also is notable for coming at a time when several U.S. allies in Europe are adopting countrywide bans on face veils.
Democrats proposed the change alongside a pledge to create an independent diversity office and ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure that the most diverse Congress in history pursues the creation of a diverse workforce as well.