Fierce leader and Senator of Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren was shushed by Senate Republicans for violating Senate Rule 19 (point 2) which states that “2. 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” after she spoke out against Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions in his confirmation as Attorney General by reading from a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King that was critical of Sessions’ civil rights records. King’s letter read: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.”
Senator Mitch McConnell, Majority Speaker of the House, objected to Warren’s use of the letter as “impugning a colleague” (must be hard to call Sessions a colleague), which the Senator Steve Daines, President of the Chamber agreed to, saying condescendingly, “The senator will take her seat.”
The New York Times reports McConnell that said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” which spurred a series of #ShePersisted hashtags overnight. Many might not know about the rule McConnell used to silence Warren because it is seldom applied — we have witnessed numerous videos of “colleagues” decrying fellow senate members before, but when an outspoken woman quotes another outspoken woman, the line seems to be drawn. According to the New York Times, Democrats like Chuck Schumer of New York “argued that Mr. McConnell was enforcing the rule selectively, citing examples of Republicans appearing to test the boundaries of Rule XIX. In one instance from 2015, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas accused Mr. McConnell of lying ‘over and over and over again.’ In another, last year, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas described the ‘cancerous leadership’ of Senator Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader.”
News just broke from C-SPAN that Senator Bernie Sanders re-read part of the same speech and was also not silenced. Like the election, this may be not only a partisan issue, but a misogyny issue. Though I am all in favor of Bernie carrying the message, I don’t understand why the woman who’s original idea it was to read the letter could not represent herself.
This double standard, patronizing shushing did not stick, as Warren took to Facebook to continue (or persist) to deliver Scott’s letter — “Attracting more than two million views — an audience she would have been unlikely to match on C-Span, if she had been permitted to continue speaking in the chamber,” CNN aptly notes.
This silencing “handed the liberal firebrand a megaphone — further elevating President Donald Trump’s fiercest and most prominent critic in the Senate and turning her into a Democratic hero.” CNN reports. Warren was immediately embraced and invited to speak to “liberal media.” She told Don Lemon, “They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth.”
What does this silencing mean? Pick your analogy. She has been benched, red carded, put in detention, forbidden to participate in the rest of the debate over Sessions today.
So let’s take her official silencing and turn it on its head by sharing her voice and the words of Mrs. King: “The appointment of Jefferson Sessions to the federal bench would irreparably damage the work of my husband, Al Turner, and countless others who risked their lives and freedom over the past twenty years to ensure equal participation in our democratic system.”
top photo via CSpan
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