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Viral CBS story prompts Paul Ryan to modernize Speaker's Lobby dress code enforcement

Capitol Hill dress code
Capitol Hill dress code 01:25

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced on the House floor Thursday that he is working with the Sergeant of Arms to modernize the dress code in the Speaker's Lobby, after a story by CBS News' Rebecca Shabad about the unwritten rules went viral. 

"This is nothing new and certainly not something that I devised," Ryan said of the dress code on the House floor. "At the same time, that doesn't mean that enforcement couldn't stand to be a bit modernized. So that is why we will be working with the Sergeant of Arms to ensure the enforcement of appropriate business attire is updated."

Ryan said the updates should be expected soon. It's unclear whether the dress code itself will be updated, or whether enforcement of the code will simply become a little more relaxed to meet modern standards of professional attire. 

Shabad's story ignited a firestorm of other news stories and debate on Capitol Hill, after she reported anecdotes of other reporters barred from entering the go-to location for reporters to interview lawmakers on account of an infraction of the unwritten, longstanding dress code. The code apparently bans things like sleeveless dresses, open-toed shoes and sneakers for women. Men are expected to wear suit jackets and ties. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), applauded the move. The rules were also in place when she led the House. 

One woman lawmaker, Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, took up the cause earlier this week, too. Standing on the House floor Wednesday, she declared, "Before I yield back, I want to point out I'm standing here in my professional attire, which happens to be a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes."   

The code has in the recent past sometimes prevented reporters from doing their jobs. 

Congressional attire 00:44

Shabad's story included accounts of journalists like Haley Byrd, a congressional reporter for Independent Journal Review (IJR) who said she was kicked out of the Speaker's lobby because she was wearing a sleeveless dress.

"When I was kicked out that day, I was just trying to pass through the area to reach another hallway, but I was told I was violating the rules. They offered to find a sweater for me to put on, so it wasn't some tyrannical end of free press, but I opted to just go around instead. But recently they've been cracking down on the code, like with open-toed shoes," she said, adding that sometimes she walks fast and those on patrol don't notice. "I suspect the rules are being emphasized now that it's summertime and excruciatingly hot outside and everyone is dressing for the weather." 

Washington was expected to reach temperatures of 100 degrees, with high humidity Thursday.

CBS News' Rebecca Shabad contributed to this report. 

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