Sen. Bernie Sanders Wednesday joined with Democrats in demanding an apology from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for silencing Sen. Elizabeth Warren's attempt to read a letter critical of attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions Tuesday night, saying he and others were permitted to read the letter while she was not.
"It's the question that Sen. McConnell has got to answer," the Vermont independent senator, who ran as a Democrat in the 2016 presidential race, told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on the "Andrea Mitchell Reports" program.
"I read the entire letter that Coretta Scott King, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee some 30 years ago, read every word of it. There was no objection."
But Warren, when reading the letter on Tuesday night, was told she could not read or discuss the document about Sessions, written when he was in the running for a federal judgeship. McConnell used Senate Rule 19, which prohibits senators from attacking each other by name, while calling for a decision that she could not participate in the confirmation debate.
"I was not told that I could not participate in the debate over Sen. Sessions' nomination," Sanders told Mitchell. "I think it's very clear Sen. McConnell made a mistake. I think he owes Elizabeth Warren an apology."
Further, Sanders said he thinks the Senate needs to revote the matter immediately, to make it clear that silencing a senator's discussion should not become a precedent.
"I worry when the next time somebody is going to be banned from participating in a U.S. Senate debate," Sanders said. "The concern now is that we have a president who recently initiated an anti-Muslim ban, who has criticized a United States judge for his decision in opposing the ban on immigration, and attacking the entire judiciary.
"I don't want to see that mentality come into the United States Senate. We need free and open debate."
The debates will continue until about 7 p.m., at which time there will be a confirmation vote for Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, and Mitchell said she was confused about how someone could bring up his record before then before violating Rule 19.
"That is a very good question," said Sanders. "It is one thing if somebody gets on to the floor and viciously attacks somebody else. I don't think we'd want to see that."
He continued that he thinks McConnell's position on the matter is "preposterous."
Sanders said he believes there will further heated discussions over President Donald Trump's other nominees, much as there was in regard to newly confirmed Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
"Millions of calls came in because the American people said this woman is just not qualified to become secretary of education," said Sanders, and a similar reaction is likely for secretary of Labor nominee Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Hardee's, Carl's Jr., and other fast food restaurants.
"This is a guy who does not support raising the minimum wage to any significant degree," said Sanders. "I think what you are seeing now are millions of people becoming engaged in the political process in a way that they have not been before, and I think at a certain point the Republicans are going to have to pay attention to that or else they face a real political challenge."
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