Last night, on the floor of the Senate, Elizabeth Warren was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King that, she said, was relevant to the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. King’s letter, detailing Jeff Session’s actions against black voters when he was the U.S. Attorney for Alabama, was written to Strom Thurmond and the Judiciary Committee in 1986, when Sessions was nominated for a federal district court judgeship. This was part of Warren’s objection to Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be a federal court justice, and the letter was admitted to the record in 1986. And indeed, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to confirm Sessions then; I suspect the letter from King played a role in that. Now, however, simply reading the letter was considered as Warren herself impugning another Senator. (See the letter below.) That was interpreted by Mitch McConnell as violating Senate rules.
She was ordered to sit down, something that almost never happens in the Senate. As CNN reported in an email:
In an extremely rare rebuke, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was instructed to take her seat after clashing with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during Sen. Jeff Sessions’ confirmation debate on Tuesday night.
McConnell determined the Massachusetts Democrat had violated a Senate rule against impugning another senator. The ruling means Warren will be barred from speaking on the floor until Sessions’ debate ends, McConnell’s office confirmed.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The emotional exchange occurred during debate on the nomination of Sessions to be attorney general. Warren was reading from a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, which was critical of Sessions, then a nominee to be a federal judge.
I don’t think Warren was out of line. Yes, Sessions is another Senator, but Warren is speaking of his record, not simply denigrating him as one Senator to another. And if the letter was admitted in 1986, why not now?
Here’s the exchange: Ignore the Trumpite who introduces the video, and start watching at 0:36.
CNN further reports:
You stated that a sitting senator is a disgrace to the Department of Justice,” said Daines, explaining what Warren had done to violate the rule.
About 20 minutes later, with Warren continuing to speak out critically of Sessions,
McConnell went to the floor and told Warren she was in violation of the rule. At that point, Warren asked for a roll call vote on her appeal of the decision but it was defeated.
Warren is now barred from speaking on the floor for the remainder of the debate on Session’s nomination, McConnell’s office said. The debate is expected to wrap up about 7 p.m. ET Wednesday when a final confirmation vote is planned.
She later read King’s letter outside the Senate floor on Facebook.