Mitch McConnell to Elizabeth Warren: Shut Up, Sit Down

Elizabeth Warren (Courtesy of Diversity)

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) held the Senate floor Tuesday to make remarks on the pending appointment of U.S. Attorney General nominee Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama. When Warren began reading a recently uncovered letter written by the late Coretta Scott King in 1986, Republican senators shut her down.

King, an activist and wife of slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., penned a nine-page letter of testimony, dated March 19, 1986, to then-Judiciary Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). She testified against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in Alabama because of his civil rights record, particularly the criminal voting fraud charges he filed against Evelyn Turner, Albert Turner and Spencer Hogue, known as the “Marion Three.” King’s opposition became a crucial part of the argument against his confirmation, and a Republican-controlled Senate rejected Sessions for a federal judgeship.

See the Complete Letter

Coretta Scott King letter

Coretta Scott King’s Full Letter Opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions

King testified against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in Alabama because of his civil rights record.

Because Warren read from that letter, she was accused by Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell of impugning a peer.

“Mr. President, Mr. President,” McConnell interrupted Warren as she read the letter. “The Senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama as warned by the Chair.”

He continued, “Senator Warren said, ‘Senator Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by Black citizens.’”

McConnell opposed Warren’s words that were a direct quote from King’s letter.

King wrote in a recently uncovered letter that Sessions “sought to punish older civil rights activists, advisors and colleagues of my husband, who had been key figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”

After given permission by the Senate President, McConnell then said, “I call the Senator to order under the provisions of Rule-19.”

Rule-19 (Rule XIX) prohibits, during debates, senators from “directly or indirectly, by any form of words imput[ing] to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

Warren responded, “Mr. President, I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate. I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks.”

McConnell, who famously said in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term,” objected to Warren’s request.

“Objection is heard,” said Sen. Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who was presiding in the chamber at the time.

Daines then told Warren to “have a seat.”

See video:

Senators upheld Daines’s decision in a party-line vote, 49 to 43. Warren is now forbidden from taking part in the ongoing debate on the Sessions nomination.

On January 11 Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, along with Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, gave emotional testimonies against Sessions, saying his history indicates he is unfit for the position.

But the Alabama senator is expected to be confirmed as U.S. attorney general on Wednesday.

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul” — Coretta Scott King

On Tuesday night, after being silenced, Warren read King’s letter on Facebook, attracting more than six million views, and the hashtag #LetLizSpeak began trending on Twitter.

Bernice King, a minister and youngest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. King, tweeted:

 

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeted:

 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) agreed:

MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid:

 

Bill Kristol, founder of a conservative publication, The Weekly Standard, tweeted:

 

A Twitter user included a photo of Rosa Parks with the following message: