Tuesday night saw tensions over President Trump’s nomination for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions grow more heated as Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was censured by the Senate for making disparaging remarks about the candidate and was prohibited from partaking in the debate. Debate over the nomination is expected to continue on Wednesday with a vote by the Judicial committee on Wednesday before moving on for a vote by the full senate. Sessions is expected to be confirmed by the full senate.
Senator Warren rose to speak against Session’s nomination during an all-night filibuster called by the Democrats as a way to protest many of President Trump’s cabinet picks. During her remarks, Senator Warren made reference to comments made by the late Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts during a previous debate over the appointment of Sessions to the Federal bench stating that Sessions was “a disgrace to the Justice Department.” Later, Warren started to read from to a ten-year-old letter written by Coretta King, widow of slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, in opposition to Session’s nomination to a Federal judgeship. In the letter, King wrote that Sessions used “the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens”
Several minutes later, the Senate’s presiding officer Senator Steve Daines warned that Warren was in violation of Senate rules. Specifically Senator Daines referred to Rule 19 of the standing rules of the Senate which prohibits a senator to impute to another senator or senators any conduct or motive unworthy or becoming a senator. In response, Senator Warren argued that she was quoting others, and that these quotes came from previous congressional hearings where no objections had been raised. Senator Daines indicated that his comments may not necessarily apply to what Warren had said at that particular point. “However,” he continued, “you stated that a sitting senator is a disgrace to the Department of Justice.”
Senator Warren continued with her comments until a few minutes later when
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to have Senator Warren censure saying that she had breached Senate rules by reading past statements against Sessions. “The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,” McConnell said. After a few procedurals moves, a roll-call vote was called and the Senate voted, 49 to 43, to uphold the ruling that Warren violated Rule 19. Warren was prohibited from speaking during the remainder of the debate on the nomination of Sessions.
Afterwards, Senator Warren headed outside the Senate floor to continue her attacks on Sessions. Also, on the floor of the Senate, fellow Democratic senators took to the podium to continue to read the letter of Coretta King which had been the basis of the Warren censure. Senator Bernie Sanders, along with several other Democratic senators, spoke on the floor and read the parts of Ms. King’s letter which had gotten Warren in hot water without any further objection. Senator Sanders commented, “The idea that a letter and a statement made by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. … could not be presented and spoken about here on the floor of the Senate is, to me,
Warren’s censure also resulted in social media firestorm, starting with the Senator reading Coretta King’s letter on Facebook Live. The letter was also posted multiple times on Facebook. The incident also gave rise to numerous Twitter handles including #LetLizSpeak. Also in response to Senator McConnell’s comments that after being warned, Warren persisted, gave rise to the hashtag #ShePersisted along with numerous clothing items sporting the slogan.