The Senate voted along party lines Tuesday night to silence Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren from breaking a Senate rule that prohibits any Senator from impugning another Senator during debate over the nomination of Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
The Senate voted 49-43 along a party line vote to stop Warren from speaking, invoking Rule 19, which states, "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."
Democrats objected, taking to the Senate floor — while supporters took to Twitter, saying Warren had been only quoting from Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"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," Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 when Sessions was nominated by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship.
But Texas Republican John Cornyn said King's words alone was not reason for objection that caused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to object. It was also a quote from former Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy, who, during Sessions' ill-fated nomination, said Sessions was "a disgrace to the Justice Department, and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position."
Sessions was accused of racism at the time, and those allegations have been brought up again in his current nomination by President Donald Trump to head the Justice Department. Sessions has denied the allegations, and pointed to his record of prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan and defending minorities during his time as a U.S. attorney in his native Mobile, and later as Alabama attorney general.
The Senate vote effectively silences Warren from Senate debate on Sessions' nomination.
"I'm not allowed to speak so long as the topic is Sen. Jeff Sessions," Warren told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. "I've been red-carded. I'm out of the game on the Senate floor. I don't get to speak at all."
Sticking by her assertion it was King's words that got her silenced, Warren encouraged viewers to reference Coretta Scott King's letter urging Sessions not be made a federal judge.
"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," Warren said.
Democrats were planning another all-nighter opposing Sessions' nomination. A confirmation vote is expected Wednesday.
A similar effort by Democrats overnight Monday failed to stop the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
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