What is the history of religious head coverings in Congress?

David Schoen's hand on his head brought the question of religious head coverings in governmental buildings into the spotlight.

A MAN wears a Trump kippah while waiting for Trump to address the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
A MAN wears a Trump kippah while waiting for Trump to address the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
When David Schoen, a Jewish-American lawyer representing former US president Donald Trump in his impeachment trial, kept his hand over his head whenever he drank a glass of water on Tuesday during the Senate-held debate, he placed a spotlight on the fascinating history US Congress has concerning hats, religious beliefs, and traditions.
Schoen, who is a religious Jew, opted to remove his kippah when facing the Senate. "I didn't want to offend anyone...it's just an awkward thing and people stare at it," he told CNN.
Not keeping his head covered might have left him facing the question of what to do while drinking water. Religious people often say a quick blessing before drinking or eating and for that, seeing God’s name is mentioned, they usually cover their head.
While covering one’s head with a hand if no head cover is available is something that Jewish people do as a sort of on-the-spot solution, the sight of Schoen covering his head with his hand each and every time he drank water made the audience wonder what is taking place.
In reality, he was missing his usual head cover, but the truth is that his concern was not unfounded; Congress did not permit religious head covers until 2019.
Only when Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a religious Muslim woman who keeps her head covered, was elected to Congress did the 1837 rule which forbade members from wearing hats while on the House floor change. Now religious head covers are allowed, but not hats.
The change, which only happened in January 2019, extends to all sorts of religious head coverings, kippot included.
Omar tweeted her thanks after the change was made and said it made her feel “welcomed” by her peers. Had the change not been made, it is unclear how she would have been able to work while being true to her religious ideals.
The original 1837 ruling was, in its own time, a change from the custom of keeping hats on while in Congress as was done in the British Parliament. In fact, those who objected to the new measure argued that, should anyone attempt to challenge Congress, that challenge should be met “with our hats on.”
So, hats on? Or hats off? What about head covers which are religious in nature, or modest?
Schoen was likely aware that there is no legal issue with him wearing a kippah while in Congress, but rather simply tried to be careful.
National security expert Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes argued that Trump's lawyer was not trying a “duplicitous trick” and those who think so have their “privilege showing,” her Wednesday tweet said.
Wittes was referring to the term "White privilege," usually used to point out that non-White, or non-majority persons, often experience hardships which those who are White do not. Implying that to think it unlikely a religious Jew might feel uneasy facing the court wearing a kippah is a failure of understanding, from either Jewish persons or non-Jewish persons, Wittes suggested. 
Laura E. Adkins and Ron Kampeas/JTA contributed to this report.