Last night, the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren. Her offense? She read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King opposing the nomination of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. King wrote about the 1986 nomination for a federal judgeship, which the Senate voted down. Warren spoke to the 2017 nomination to Attorney General. The Republican Senators not only want to put this anti-civil rights Senator in charge of enforcing civil rights laws: they want to silence voices speaking the truth about him. And it’s time for Democratic Senators to stand up and show the world just how despicable the Republican support for Sessions is. Here’s how:
Today, before the vote on Sessions, every single Democratic Senator should stand up on the floor and read the same Coretta Scott King letter that got Senator Elizabeth Warren silenced. Let the Republicans show their true colors by silencing every voice of opposition, one at a time. Make them show their shameful behavior to the world.
Republican majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, used an archaic Senate rule, Rule 19, to shut up Elizabeth Warren. The rule says
“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.”
It was passed after a fistfight broke out between Senators on the floor of the Senate. Senators usually ignore the rule, as Vox observes:
“Senate Republicans appear to have violated the rule on multiple occasions, one of which occurred less than a week ago — with no apparent consequences.
“On February 1, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) took to the Senate floor to directly attack Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after Schumer cried at a press conference about Trump’s executive order. ‘The minority leader’s tear-jerking performance over the past weekend belongs at the Screen Actors Guild awards, not in a serious discussion of what it takes to keep America safe,’ said Perdue in a speech on the floor.
“Additionally, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton used the Senate floor to attack the ‘sad, sorry legacy’ of former Minority Leader Harry Reid on May 25, 2016. On July 24, 2015, Sen. Ted Cruz accused McConnell of a ‘flat-out lie.’”
Moreover, as Senator Chris Murphy pointed out on Twitter: “Rules against criticizing other Senators cannot apply when you are DEBATING THE NOMINATION OF A SENATOR!”
I’m attaching the PDF of Coretta Scott King’s letter. Here’s an excerpt:
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship. …
“The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods. …
“We still have a long way to go before we can say that minorities no longer need be concerned about discrimination at the polls. Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans are grossly underrepresented at ever level of government in America. If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored. …
“I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence, and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court.
It was true in 1986 – Sessions was unfit to be a federal judge. It’s true now – he is unfit to be Attorney General.
And it is unfitting for the U.S. Senate to deny Elizabeth Warren, or any other Senator, the right to say so.
What you can do:
Call your Senators. Tell them to read the Coretta Scott King letter on the Senate floor today. Tell them to stand up to Mitch McConnell and not allow the silencing of debate. Tell them to vote against the Sessions nomination.