Maybe there shouldn’t be this rule in the Senate. Yet there is.
Should the rule be broken because of who was speaking or who wrote the letter?
There was a fair bit of drama in the Senate last night.
Senate Democrats are hosting yet another sleepover to protest the upcoming confirmation vote on Senator Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General, knowing full well they don’t have the votes to stop his confirmation. They pulled the same stunt prior to the confirmation vote for Betsy DeVos, the new Education Secretary.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter was written in protest of Sen. Sessions nomination as a federal judge in 1986, and according to Senate Republicans, spoke ill of the soon-to-be AG.
“Mr. Sessions has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters,” King wrote. The letter and her full statement are embedded beneath.
Sen. Warren was interrupted before being able to finish reading King’s letter and statement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked Rule 19 (which establishes rules for floor debate so as to keep the discourse civil), in particular, the bit prohibiting Senators from imputing the motives of other Senators from the floor.
ABC News Politics on Twitter
@SenWarren cut off as @SenateMajLdr says she “impugned the motives” of Jeff Sessions by quoting Coretta Scott King https://t.co/UHcNv2eia8 https://t.co/tntBWZ4oxc
Maybe don’t violate parliamentary rules then? No one has been silenced. It’s as simple as the rule states. No senator is allowed to say whatever they please on the Senate floor, regardless of who wrote the words (it’s all spelled out here).
McConnell dinged Warren on a technicality and was within his rights to do so. But just because it was within McConnell’s realm of power to end Warren’s speach doesn’t mean he should’vestepping in. At least not then. Why not wait until after she’d finished reading the letter? It’s not like allowing her to finish would’ve swayed any votes.
And now the narrative has been set and the story of a silenced Liz Warren trying to read a letter from Dr. Martin Luther King’s long-departed widow is internet history. An unforced error if ever there was one.
Kemberlee Kaye on Twitter
From the @AP wire. Seriously.