WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday praised Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) for wearing a hoodie on the House floor in protest of the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida.
"I think that Bobby 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 he was out of order," Pelosi said during her weekly briefing.
Pelosi said Rush knew he was breaking House rules -- lawmakers are prohibited from wearing hats and hoods in the chamber -- but that he made his point before leaving the floor quickly and without being contentious.
"He called attention to a situation in our country that needs to be addressed in a way that a man in a suit and a tie might not be able to do," she said, referring to Rush dressing like Martin was dressed when he was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who said Martin looked suspicious. Martin was unarmed.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) is planning to give a "friendly, hand-written" note to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) asking him to do a better job of enforcing the House dress code across the board. He told Fox News on Wednesday that some CBC members think Rush was unfairly singled out for his attire, because other members often don't conform to the dress code but aren't escorted out of the chamber like Rush was.
“Whenever rules are not enforced, you create the opportunity for somebody to believe they have been singled out," Cleaver told Fox News. “You see during late night votes, people stand in the back with jeans and no jackets and no ties."
Boehner told reporters Thursday that he believes the rules are implemented fairly.
"Listen, I think the rules are enforced evenly," he said during his weekly press conference. "I've asked members on both sides of the aisle to leave the floor myself. I know the Sergeant At Arms has asked members to leave the floor ... The rules make it clear the members should be in proper business attire."
Asked then why some congresswomen have been allowed to wear hats on the House floor, Boehner said he hadn't seen that happen.
"I've not witnessed that and I think the women members know that that's in violation of the rules," he said.
Pelosi said she doesn't really care about the dress code, as long as lawmakers serve with dignity and participate in conversations relevant to Americans' lives.
"This, I think, falls into the 'fairly irrelevant,'" she said. "I still wonder why women can't have hats on the floor."