Anyone watching the news on the evening of February 7th may have been surprised to see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuke Senator Elizabeth Warren for reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Warren offered the letter, originally written to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986, as part of her objection to the confirmation of Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as Attorney General. Among other things Mrs. King, who joined with many Americans against the appointment of Sessions to a Federal judgeship back in 1986, said of the man “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of this office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.” While reading the letter, Warren was interrupted by Mitch McConnell who invoked the rarely used Rule 19, a regulation that prohibits senators from impugning one another. Invoking Rule 19 essentially silenced Elizabeth Warren for the rest of the discussion, prohibiting her to speak further on the matter at hand.
Not only was the invoking of Rule 19 a shocking gesture—especially since the letter Warren was reading was already common knowledge, was already on record and was written by civil rights icon Coretta Scott King, but even more shocking was the fact that just hours after Warren’s censure, Sen. Jeff Merkley read the King letter on the senate floor without interruption as did Sen. Tom Udall.
Backlash to Silencing Elizabeth Warren
McConnell may have succeeded in silencing Elizabeth Warren for the night, but his actions seem only to have invigorated the Massachusetts Democrat and her supporters. #LetLizSpeak began trending almost immediately on social media outlets Tuesday night, and MoveOn reports receiving approximately $250,000 in donations to Warren’s 2018 election campaign in under 12 hours.
What do you think—was McConnell justified in his effort to silence Elizabeth Warren or is there more at play than meets the eye? Speak out on this issue by leaving your comments below.