News & Politics

Elizabeth Warren Silenced on Senate Floor for Reading Words of Coretta Scott King

The Massachusetts senator was shut down for "impugning" the character of Jeff Sessions.

Photo Credit: Senator Elizabeth Warren / YouTube

Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor Tuesday night in an unprecedented act of Republican censure. She had been reading a letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing the civil rights record of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump's cabinet appointee for attorney general. 

"Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district; he now seeks to serve as a federal judge," Warren said, citing the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.

She was first interrupted by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who informed Warren such a letter was a violation of rule 19 of the standing rules of the Senate. Daines insisted that Warren was impugning another senator, despite the letter having been admitted into the record beforehand. 

"I am not allowed to accurately describe public views of Sen. Sessions, public positions of Sen. Sessions, public statements of Sen. Sessions?" she asked Daines before proceeding. 

The letter was written 30 years ago and helped prevent Sessions from obtaining a federal judgeship. 

Approximately 20 minutes later, Warren was interrupted yet again, by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) while discussing the impact of Trump's executive orders on the courts.


"She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted," McConnell said on the Senate floor, thus prohibiting Warren from debating on the floor prior to Sessions' confirmation vote.

Warren's supporters fired back, and #LetLizSpeak trended into the early hours of the morning.

Warren responded on Twitter.

She was later interviewed by CNN's Don Lemon and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about the incident, which quickly became a national story.  

"If the truth hurts, then that's all the more reason to hear it," Warren told Lemon after he offered to read the letter. 

"I've been red-carded on Sen. Sessions. I'm out of the game of the Senate floor," she reiterated on MSNBC. 

Warren also livestreamed her own reading of King's letter outside the Senate floor via Facebook as prominent Democrats leapt to her defense

"It's a sad day in America when the words of Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow are not allowed on the floor of the United States Senate. Let Elizabeth Warren speak," Interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a statement. 

"I never, ever saw a time when a member of the Senate asked to put into the record a letter—especially by a civil rights icon—and somebody objected," added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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