Senate tells Elizabeth Warren to take her seat
The Short Version
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was interrupted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) and charged with violating Senate rule XIX, ” 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.” Senator Warren was reading a letter from the late Coretta Scott King opposing the 1986 nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to a federal court judgeship. The arcane rule makes any debate on the Senator’s nomination almost impossible.
The Dirty Details
Alabama’s junior Senator, Jeff Sessions, has twice previously been nominated to federal positions that require Senate confirmation. Both times, he was turned down because of concerns regarding his treatment of minorities, specifically black civil rights workers. The matter was raised earlier during the Senate committee hearing, where rule XIX doesn’t apply, but the nomination was then passed on to the full Senate where all rules, including some stupid ones, are put into effect.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken critic of both Senator Sessions and the president, was reading a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel interrupted her, claiming that reading the letter was in violation of Senate rule XIX. Here’s the video of what happened:
As the vote on Senator Session’s nomination is scheduled for today, the employment of this rule by Senate leadership makes it virtually impossible for there to be any debate on the matter. Anything negative that might be used to defeat the nomination can be said to run afoul of rule XIX. The rule is seldom used at all, and is particularly egregious in this case as Session’s nomination as Attorney General of the United States is a critical matter that desperately needs debate.
The move by the majority leader demonstrates a clear intention to not allow any full debate of Sen. Sessions. On one hand, this is a clear continuation of the good ole’ boy system that has permeated Capitol Hill for ages. Members of the same party defend each other on the floor even when they know that the other is in the wrong. At the same time, this is clearly an obstruction of justice by not allowing full debate on a critical matter.
Just what did that letter say that was so damaging against Sen. Sessions? Here’s the full text:
The charges Mrs. King makes against Sessions are extremely critical given his appointment as Attorney General. To ignore her words and approve the nomination is to place the entire justice system of the United States in the hands of someone who is a known bigot with a history of discrimination. Senate leadership has the ability to suspend specific rules when they stand in the way of honest debate, but obviously shows no intention of doing so in this matter.
Given that the vote on the Sessions nomination is scheduled for this morning, citizens are strongly encouraged to call their Senators in opposition to both the nomination and the censorship of Senator Warren.