On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) interrupted a speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) objecting to the reading of a 1986 letter written by the wife of late civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The letter was about her opposition to the appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Session (R) to a federal judgeship.
As a result, Sessions’ judgeship was defeated by the majority of Democrats and some Republicans. Mrs. King’s letter was entered into the congressional record and sealed from the public.
On Tuesday, Warren attempted to read Mrs. King’s letter detailing the widow’s then-opposition to Sessions. In the letter, Mrs. King said that Sessions’ appointment would “irreparably damage the work of my husband.” She goes on to detail how when Sessions served as Alabama’s attorney general he falsely charged African-American civil rights workers with voter fraud to deter black voters from going to the polls.
However, before Warren could finish reading the letter, McConnell cited Rule XIX which states that “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.” King’s letter argues that, during his time as a prosecutor in Alabama, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” McConnell highlighted that portion of the letter to the presiding officer, to make his argument that Warren’s recital was in violation of that Senate rule.
Shockingly, chairman Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) agreed with McConnell and ruled Warren in violation of the order forcing her to sit down.
I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren replied.
A vote was immediately conducted concerning Warren’s appeal of the preceding chair’s ruling, and Republicans won. Now Warren, under the rules, will be barred from speaking for the remaining 30 hours of the Sessions debate. Democrats asked the Daines to restore Warren’s speaking privileges, and McConnell called for another vote on their request.
Here is Corretta Scott King’s full letter.
Dear Senator Thurmond:
I write to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. My professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting. Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has 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.
I regret that a long-standing commitment prevents me from appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However, I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions’ confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this be made a part of the hearing record.
I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions.
Let’s be clear. McConnell has just equated the words of Coretta Scott King with profanity and slander. Think about that for a second. Think about what they do when they have an opportunity to take action for or against African-Americans. This insult by the Republican Senate Majority Leader speaks volumes as does the Republicans’ track record on African American issues. They love black people when they can feature a few at a Trump rally or on Fox News, however, their actions usually suggest otherwise.
President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans thugs are doing everything they can to destroy the spirit and application of the U.S. Constitution and are doing so brazenly. The only way we can fight back is to continue making our voices heard and show up at the polls in 2018 when America has its chance to send Trump and his cohorts a loud and clear message.
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