The House’s Newest Accomplishment: Cool New Lapel Pins For Members

A change in color in the pins members use to identify themselves inspires snark — and something of a mystery.
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Like school children lining up to receive their class pictures, members of the so-far historically unproductive House of Representatives on Thursday had three alphabetical lines at a desk just off the House floor from which to choose: A-Gal, Gar-Mora and More-Z.

The occasion? Picking up new member lapel pins, small mementos serving not only as literal badges for one of the most exclusive clubs in the world but also as a secondary security device, helping distinguish members from the staffers, lobbyists and journalists that rub shoulders in the U.S. Capitol.

But this time was different: Instead of picking them up at the start of the 118th Congress last year, they were picking them up this week, a year later. And their new color sparked some partisan snark.

“Today we’re getting a new pin, half way through the term because the @HouseGOP didn’t like the color. Big congrats to them on their first tangible accomplishment of the 118th,” posted Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) on social media, posting a picture of the old, blue 118th Congress pin next to one of the new, green 118th pins.

For a House that in its first year was half of the least productive Congress since the Herbert Hoover administration, is in the middle of a clash between a new House speaker and the hardline right wing of his party and faces the prospect of a partial government shutdown in a week, it struck some Democrats as illustrative of the House GOP majority’s mismatched priorities.

“I’m awfully proud of these guys for getting something done,” Casten told HuffPost, adding:

“When we have a war in Ukraine that we can’t get funding to, a crisis in Israel and Gaza and a government shutdown eight days away and we’re prioritizing the color of fashion choices, that speaks for itself.”

With each new Congress, every lawmaker gets a pin to wear that has a new pattern and color and also includes the lawmaker’s rank in House seniority on the back of it. With it, the member can bypass security, get on the House floor and generally avoid wearing the one thing everyone else who works or visits the Capitol wears: an ID badge.

Spouses and family members also get similar but not identical pins to identify them.

“It’s a thing. It’s a memento for members and spouses,” Casten said.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who picked up his pin Thursday, said he’s kept all his old ones from his previous 12 terms. “I don’t think you go and sell these. Maybe it’s something you give your grandson,” he said.

But why green? And why now? No one seemed to know or want to say.

In December, the House Sergeant at Arms William McFarland, who is in charge of chamber security, sent members a letter saying they needed to pick up their new pin in January.

“The Sergeant at Arms (SAA) is committed to the safety and security of Members, Congressional staff and visitors throughout the complex. To this end, the SAA will distribute a newly designed Member Lapel Pin to be worn during the second session of the 118th Congress,” the letter said.

“To assist the U.S. Capitol Police with identification, Members are advised to wear this new pin,” the letter said. The office declined any further comment.

An inquiry with the House Administration Committee, which oversees the Sergeant at Arms office and picks the pin design, was unanswered.

One theory is the pin color clashed with congressional fashion choices. Casten said he’d heard it was the color. “There’s been this low-level grumbling [that] people didn’t like the color,” he said.

It’s unclear if that’s the case, but notably, a 2023 picture shows what looks like much more of a Nickelodeon slime green color on a 118th pin, in contrast to what is probably closer to a British racing green on the ones distributed this week.

Sessions said he thought it was related to security.

“It might be for the guys who protect us. It doesn’t have to be for us. It has to be for their utilization, their identification, for their professionalism that is required,” he said.

Unable to resist getting one more dig in, Casten had another theory.

“I don’t know — maybe we do it every time we get a new speaker,” he said, an allusion to the historic ouster in October of former Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s chair and new Speaker Mike Johnson’s problems.

“We could have another one soon!”

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