Like other freshman lawmakers, newly elected Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson ran for Congress on a vow to change Washington. But her first order of business has nothing to do with health care, education or the usual mix of issues that come up in the early days of a new Congress.
Instead, Wilson’s first goal is to overturn a rule that blocks her from wearing a hat on the House floor. The freshman Democrat is pressing incoming House Speaker John Boehner to overturn the rule, which dates back to the 1800s, or at least to make an exception for her. But it’s unclear whether Boehner — who, in any event, will likely have plenty of priorities ahead of a rule-change request from a member of the opposition party — could do anything, shy of a full floor vote, to overturn the House’s hat ban.
You see, Wilson doesn’t own just a hat or two. By her count, the former Florida state House member owns at least 300 different hats, including custom-made sequined cowboy hats in virtually every color of the rainbow. Her hat collection is so massive, it takes up an entire room of her house, per the Miami New Times (which offers a photo gallery of Wilson’s 25 best hats). “I’ve been wearing them almost 30 years,” Wilson tells Politifact. “It’s like a fetish.”
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Wilson is rarely photographed sans hat, but last week, she was forced to remove one of the more demure chapeaus in her collection, a black sequined cowboy hat, when posing for her congressional ID. The same thing happened when Wilson posed for an official group photo with other freshman members of Congress.
“It’s sexist,” Wilson told the Miami Herald’s Lesley Clark. The chamber’s hat ban “dates back to when men wore hats” Wilson explained, “and we know that men don’t wear hats indoors, but women wear hats indoors. Hats are what I wear. People get excited when they see the hats. Once you get accustomed to it, it’s just me. Some people wear wigs, or high-heel shoes or big earrings or pins. This is just me.”
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So far Boehner hasn’t responded to Wilson’s request. And his office is unsure whether Boehner can waive the rule. A spokesman for the House Rules Committee tells Politifact he believes the hat ban would likely have to be overturned by a vote of the full House.
(Photo of Wilson by Steve Cannon/AP)