Senate debate on the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general came to a screeching — but temporary — halt Tuesday night in actions that resulted in the punishment of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, objected to a floor speech that Warren, D-Massachusetts, was giving in opposition to Sessions’ nomination when she quoted a letter that Coretta Scott King wrote in opposition to Sessions during his attempted confirmation for a federal judgeship 30 years ago.
McConnell and Republican objectors said that Warren violated Senate rules. The rule, No. 19, says senators cannot “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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The Senate voted along partisan lines, 49-43, to admonish Warren, effectively barring her from speaking during the remaining debate on Sessions, R-Alabama.
“She has been warned multiple times (not just today),” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told NBC News. “And after additional warning today, she was found in violation of the rule. She appealed the ruling and lost.”
Democrats stood to defend Warren, creating a hashtag on Twitter:#LetLizSpeak.
“I’ve been red-carded on Senator Sessions. I’m out of the game on Senator Sessions,” Warren said Tuesday night in an interview on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
Abandoning the sports analogies, Warren then urged all Americans to read Scott’s letter for themselves.
“I hope everyone reads the letter,” she said. “It is eloquent, and it reminds us of a time in history that we would like to think is far behind us but reminds us that it is not.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, meanwhile, tweeted excerpts of the letter after Warren was sanctioned.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York objected to the ruling, calling it “selective enforcement” and citing previous apparent violations by Republicans that went unpunished.
At times in the past, Schumer said in a statement released by his office, Republican senators have accused their colleagues of telling “a flat-out lie,” of “stirring up global hysteria to score political points” and of engaging in “bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings.”
That last one came from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, who last may denounced Schumer’s predecessor, former Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for what he called “cancerous leadership” designed to “protect his own sad, sorry legacy.”
But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, insisted that Warren’s actions had no place in the Senate.
“Even if what she said was true, it wasn’t the right thing to do,” Hatch said. “I’ve been appalled at the way Democrats have treated Jeff Sessions.”