Mitch McConnell to Elizabeth Warren: Shut Up, Sit Down

On the Senate floor, Warren read Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter against Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship, and Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell had her silenced.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) held the Senate floor Tuesday to make remarks on the pending appointment of U.S. Attorney General nominee Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama. When Warren began reading a recently uncovered letter written by the late Coretta Scott King in 1986, Republican senators shut her down.

King, an activist and wife of slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., penned a nine-page letter of testimony, dated March 19, 1986, to then-Judiciary Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). She testified against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in Alabama because of his civil rights record, particularly the criminal voting fraud charges he filed against Evelyn Turner, Albert Turner and Spencer Hogue, known as the “Marion Three.” King’s opposition became a crucial part of the argument against his confirmation, and a Republican-controlled Senate rejected Sessions for a federal judgeship.

See the Complete Letter

Coretta Scott King letter

Coretta Scott King's Full Letter Opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions

King testified against Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in Alabama because of his civil rights record.

Because Warren read from that letter, she was accused by Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell of impugning a peer.

“Mr. President, Mr. President,” McConnell interrupted Warren as she read the letter. “The Senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama as warned by the Chair.”

He continued, “Senator Warren said, ‘Senator Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by Black citizens.’”

McConnell opposed Warren’s words that were a direct quote from King’s letter.

Related Story

Coretta Scott King First Warned of Jeff Sessions in 1986

Coretta Scott King First Warned of Jeff Sessions in 1986

King wrote in a recently uncovered letter that Sessions “sought to punish older civil rights activists, advisors and colleagues of my husband, who had been key figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.”

After given permission by the Senate President, McConnell then said, “I call the Senator to order under the provisions of Rule-19.”

Rule-19 (Rule XIX) prohibits, during debates, senators from “directly or indirectly, by any form of words imput[ing] to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

Warren responded, “Mr. President, I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate. I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks.”

McConnell, who famously said in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term,” objected to Warren’s request.

“Objection is heard,” said Sen. Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, who was presiding in the chamber at the time.

Daines then told Warren to “have a seat.”

See video:

Senators upheld Daines’s decision in a party-line vote, 49 to 43. Warren is now forbidden from taking part in the ongoing debate on the Sessions nomination.

On January 11 Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, along with Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, gave emotional testimonies against Sessions, saying his history indicates he is unfit for the position.

But the Alabama senator is expected to be confirmed as U.S. attorney general on Wednesday.

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul” — Coretta Scott King

On Tuesday night, after being silenced, Warren read King’s letter on Facebook, attracting more than six million views, and the hashtag #LetLizSpeak began trending on Twitter.

Bernice King, a minister and youngest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. King, tweeted:

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeted:

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) agreed:

MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid:

Bill Kristol, founder of a conservative publication, The Weekly Standard, tweeted:

A Twitter user included a photo of Rosa Parks with the following message:

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15 comments


  • I think it’s important to add this started with a quote she mentioned from Senator Ted Kennedy who called the nominee a disgrace to the Justice Department. She got a warning for presenting this quote. Then the interaction carried on as she asked to read Ms. King’s letter and was shortly thereafter told to sit. My theory: They knew Sen. Warren was going to be continuing her opposition to the Trump antics and planned to look for an opportunity to shut her down. They started in on it, kept sliding and their timing was very, very bad.

  • As a nation, we should be outraged that free speech and debate were shut down in the United States Senate last night. The Republican leadership knows who and what Jeff Sessions is and the fact that they still support his nomination says a lot about their lack of moral character. They don’t want the world to know so they silenced the outspoken leader of the opposition. The Founding Generation just let our a collective groan and rolled in their graves.

  • I guess…I will be shaking my head for the next four years. Sad state of affairs………

  • It’s been well-established that men are much more likely to interrupt women than other men, and that women are much less likely to interrupt men or other women. It’s highly unlikely that this would have even happened had a man been speaking — instead of Warren — or had a woman been in McConnell’s position.

  • McConnel did that due to thoughtless pressure from peers and because she was female. It was not done to Sanders and other males who read the letter. Come on Republicans, how stupid do you think we are? Get your collective heads out of your bank accounts and get back to real politics for all of the people you are supposed to serve.

  • First of all if Liz wanted to be heard she should have put her message in in a tweet. But let me understand a Senator cannot impugn another senator/colleague, but the prez of the US can tweet insults at a Congressman (John Lewis)? Ok, got it!
    #LetLizSpeak

  • Elizabeth Warren was my preferred intelluctual choice to be the first female president, not Killary. Republicans like Mitch McConnell prove that being in an interracial relationship with an Asian doesn’t make you less racist! Typical white male racist conduct when a righteous white woman or any woman speaks the TRUTH! SHUT her up! Even the late Southern hypocrite, Strom Thurmond, like former perverted Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Jackson, slept “black” at night (i.e., with female and male slaves), but advocated slavery, segregation and subjugation by day.

    Black History Month or African American achievements mean NOTHING to these white Republican and Democratic racists and misogynists. This is the AmeriKKKan version of Sharia Law–we will tell you b+tches when to talk and shut you up. They allowed the “men” (John Lewis) to speak [with his poor Southern diction, even as an African American female, it’s like listening to the late James Brown; I need subtitles or an English-speaking interpretor to understand what he is saying.]

    Anybody (black, white or Jewish) from the “dirty” South as an attorney general (i.e., an arbiter of law), especially from ‘Bama, is as scary as “Clearance” ThomAss on the Supreme Court.

    • Charity Dell

      ZAZIJAMS–You are a lawyer; I have a question–is there any way Senator Warren can legally silence Mitch McConnell?
      Somebody needs to sit His Ignorance down. I’m sick of Feeble-Minded Mitch and his feeble-minded cronies.

      Old Clarence has never been scary; he used to be a Scalia disciple until Scalia was recalled by his Maker.
      Clarence used to have absolutely no opinion and rarely wrote one. Clarence is Absolutely Useless.

  • Rule-19 (Rule XIX) prohibits, during debates, senators from “directly or indirectly, by any form of words imput[ing] to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

    How was Senator Joe McCarthy ever censured?

  • The question then becomes: how can there be any true debate over any nominee who is a currently seated member of the upper chamber?

    Any opposition expressed can be interpreted as being “directly or indirectly, by any form of words imput[ing] to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” . . .

    • My thought is that a senator nominated to another position to be confirmed by the senate loses senate privileges during confirmation proceedings or resigns from the senate to participate in confirmation proceedings. That way, an in-depth vetting can occur without senate privileges being called into play.

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