Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut short Senator Elizabeth Warren Tuesday night, preventing her from continuing to read aloud from a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. Sessions, the Alabama senator chosen by President Trump to serve as attorney general, was denied the judgeship in 1986 based on allegations that he had made racist remarks and unfairly prosecuted voting-rights activists.
The letter from King, the widow of civil-rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., is withering in its criticism of Sessions. King wrote that the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.” The King letter had remained hidden until unearthed by the Washington Post earlier this year, in part because then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Strom Thurmond, once an ardent segregationist, had not entered it into the record.
As Warren began to read from the letter, McConnell objected, saying the Massachusetts Democrat was breaking the rules of the Senate by disparaging a colleague. “The Senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,” going on to repeat part of the letter that Warren had read.
“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said, asking to continue, a request that was rejected. A majority of the Republican-controlled Senate then voted to reject her appeal to that ruling, ensuring that she could not continue.
Warren’s staff wasted little time in posting the exchange to her YouTube channel.