February 8, 2017
The move means the progressive senator won't be allowed to speak from the floor until after the Senate wraps up its debate on Sessions's nomination, expected to occur on Wednesday evening.
The drama on the Senate floor comes after
“The senator has impugned the motives and
conduct of our colleague from
Under the Senate’s Rule 19, senators are not allowed to “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."
Warren offered a blistering speech against Sessions's nomination, arguing he wouldn’t stand up to Trump’s “campaign of bigotry.”
“He made derogatory and racist comments that should have no place in our justice system,” she said. “To put Sen. Sessions in charge of the Department of Justice is an insult to African-Americans.”
Daines — who at times was repeating words being
said to him by GOP Senate floor staff — initially interrupted
McConnell also specifically pointed to Warren quoting a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., as evidence that she had broken the rules.
Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986, during
Sessions's failed confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, that he “had
used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by
black citizens" as a
Warren rejected McConnell's move, tweeting to her millions of followers that she "will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks the law."
Democrats jumped on the connection to King,
with some saying that the GOP was seeking to silence a civil rights icon.
Republicans countered that they were trying to keep floor debate civil and
McConnell defended the decision, noting
"Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation," he said after the vote. "Nevertheless, she persisted."
The showdown between the popular progressive senator and the Senate's top Republican sparked near immediate backlash among Democrats, spawning the Twitter hashtag #LetLizSpeak.
"It is demeaning to the memory of Coretta Scott King and harmful to the process for the Republicans to silence," Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said on Twitter, adding #LetLizSpeak.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) tried to get King's letter submitted into the Senate record, but Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) objected.
Democrats also argued that Republicans were selectively enforcing the rule. They noted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was not formally found to have violated the rules when he accused McConnell of being a "liar" from the Senate floor.
"If the average American heard someone read a letter from Coretta Scott King ... they would not be offended," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "It seems to me that we could use Rule 19 almost every day on the floor of the Senate. This is selective enforcement."
Daines — at the prodding of Sen.
Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — noted that just
Marco Rubio (
"Turn on the news and watch these parliaments around the world where people throw chairs at each other. ... I'm not arguing that we're anywhere near that here, but we're flirting with it," Rubio said. "We have become a society incapable of having debates anymore."
Hatch — while noting he wasn't sure
"All of us need to take stock and need to start thinking about the people on the other side of the aisle and need to start thinking about how we might bring each other together," he said.