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8 Feb, 2017 04:34

Senate suppression: McConnell cuts off Warren over character assault of AG nominee

Senate suppression: McConnell cuts off Warren over character assault of AG nominee

A stunning interruption on the Senate floor led to the ban on Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren from ever speaking in the chamber on the nomination of Republican Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ to the US Office of the Attorney General.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) quashed the progressive champion as she read from a 31-year-old letter written by Coretta Scott King, the late widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in opposition to Sessions when he was a nominee for a federal judgeship, which he lost.

McConnell called upon the rarely used, yet dynamic, Senate Rule 19: “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.”

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Warren, a prominent liberal voice, had quoted Corrett Scott King, who wrote: "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens," and by repeating those words, Warren had violated Senate Rule 19.

Standing accused, Warren fired back: “I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King were not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.”

The presiding chair during the chamber proceedings, freshman Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana), ordered Warren to take her seat, and a floor vote of 49-43 along party lines convicted her of the violation, consequently stripping her privilege of speaking on the topic of Sessions’ nomination.

Daines had reprimanded Warren earlier in her speech, when she quoted another 1986 statement against Sessions, this one from the late US Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), who called Sessions “a disgrace to the Justice Department,” while demanding he “withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”