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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 10, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 06
GOP silences Sen. Elizabeth Warren during debate on Jeff Sessions

Letter from Coretta Scott King violates Senate rules, GOP says
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GOP silences Sen. Elizabeth Warren during debate on Jeff Sessions

Letter from Coretta Scott King violates Senate rules, GOP says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was officially silenced by Senate Republican leaders on February 7 for 'impugning' Jeff Sessions during debate on Sessions' nomination to be attorney general.

Warren was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions' 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship when Republican leader Mitch McConnell objected. Warren had violated Senate Rule 19, he charged, by reading this sentence from King's letter:

'Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.'

Rule 19 - established in 1902 after a fistfight broke out on the Senate floor between the two senators from South Carolina - says that 'No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.'

'The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,' McConnell said about Warren.

The presiding senator, Republican Steve Daines of Montana, agreed and ordered Warren to sit down.

She objected, stating, 'I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.'

Ultimately, the Senate, on a party-line 49-to-43 vote, ruled that Warren had to be silent for the rest of the debate on Sessions.

'I've been red-carded on Sen. Sessions; I'm out of the game of the Senate floor. I don't get to speak at all,' Warren said in a brief phone conversation with MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow.

Warren then took to social media to register her opposition to Sessions.

'I will not be silent about a nominee for AG who has made derogatory & racist comments that have no place in our justice system,' she tweeted.

Warren then went to a room off the Senate chamber where she read the full Coretta Scott King letter aloud on Facebook.

Meanwhile Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) took to the Senate floor to finish reading the letter from the point at which Warren was cut off. No one objected to Udall's reading.

Georgetown law professor Heidi Feldman, having seen on the news what happened to Warren, decided to head to the Capitol and read King's letter out loud, to whomever might want to listen.

'I've been an increasingly political active person since 2008,' she said. 'I marched in the Women's March, and I've organized law students. I just felt that I had to do this.'

Feldman tweeted her plans and location, and arrived on the lawn south of the Senate at 10:15 p.m. Not long after, a dozen protesters joined her, taking turns reading from the letter.

Ironically, Sessions was still a member of the Senate, and therefore protected by Rule 19, only because Republican leaders needed his vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary and so delayed action on Sessions' nomination until after DeVos was confirmed.

DeVos was confirmed on February 7 by the narrowest of margins - 51 to 50 - with Vice President Mike Pence being brought in to cast the tie-breaking vote.

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GOP silences Sen. Elizabeth Warren during debate on Jeff Sessions

Letter from Coretta Scott King violates Senate rules, GOP says

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