Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a parliamentary procedure to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the middle of a speech critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick to be the next attorney general.
McConnell claimed Warren broke the rules of decorum by quoting a letter from Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, opposing Sessions’ nomination to be a federal judge in 1986.
In the letter, King wrote that Sessions “used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens.” Among other things, Sessions attempted to “intimidate and frighten elderly black voters,” King added.
McConnell said that, by quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Warren “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.” He then invoked Rule 19 to force Warren to stop speaking.
The rule is intended to encourage senators to be polite to each other. But McConnell used it to squelch debate about a man nominated to be the next Attorney General of the United States.
Warren objected, saying she was “surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King were not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.” She asked to continue her remarks. McConnell objected.
“The senator will take her seat,” the chair, Sen. Steve Daines, commanded.
The Senate then voted to uphold the rule of the chair and silence Elizabeth Warren:
The Senate has voted 49-43 to effectively silence Elizabeth Warren for breaking a rule impugning a fellow senator, Jeff Sessions.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) February 8, 2017
Warren called in to the Rachel Maddow show to discuss her ordeal. She said that she had been “red carded” and would not be allowed to speak on Jeff Sessions anymore:
Sen. Warren is silenced on Senate floor for reading Coretta Scott King’s letter on Sessions: "I’ve been red carded" https://t.co/O3Y0EZpmtM
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 8, 2017
The final vote of Sessions’ nomination is expected to take place on Wednesday. Democrats are holding the floor for 30 hours in a final effort to oppose his nomination.