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Senate Republicans voted on Tuesday night to silence Elizabeth Warren for reading out a letter from the widow of Martin Luther King during a debate over Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general, eliciting furious response from Democrats.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Warren quoted from 30-year-old correspondence from Coretta Scott King relating to Sessions’ failed judicial nomination in the 1980s. It was part of a barnstorming speech by the Massachusetts Senator against Sessions’ suitability for the post and attacking his record on civil rights.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, objected that Warren had broken Senate rules that prohibit one member impugning the conduct of another. Senators then voted 49-43 to uphold a ruling in McConnell’s favour.

Warren hit back on Twitter. She posted to her 1.74 million followers: “Tonight @SenateMajLdr silenced Mrs King’s voice on the Sen floor – & millions who are afraid & appalled by what’s happening in our country.” Others on Twitter were posting with the hashtag #LetLiz Speak.

I will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks the law.

 

Late on Tuesday night, she read the letter on Facebook Live, writing, “During the debate on whether to make Jeff Sessions the next Attorney General, I tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate. The letter, from 30 years ago, urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. The Republicans took away my right to read this letter on the floor – so I’m right outside, reading it now.” Less than an hour after it was posted, the video had already received more than 1.1m views.

Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said: “It’s a sad day in America when the words of Martin Luther King Jr’s widow are not allowed on the floor of the United States Senate. Let Elizabeth Warren speak. The American people deserve to hear how Jeff Sessions is an extremist who will be a rubber stamp for this out-of-control Trump presidency.”

Democrats also argued that Republicans were selectively enforcing the rule. They noted that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was not formally found to have violated the rules when he accused McConnell of being a “liar” from the Senate floor.

That’s the key point. Rules against criticizing other Senators cannot apply when you are DEBATING THE NOMINATION OF A SENATOR! https://twitter.com/davelevitan/status/829150173175615490 

 

Sessions, Senator for Alabama, is one of Donald Trump’s most contentious cabinet picks. Leading Democrats John Lewis and Cory Booker testified at his confirmation hearing, arguing that he would harm race relations in the criminal justice system.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Warren said: “He made derogatory and racist comments that should have no place in our justice system. To put Senator Sessions in charge of the Department of Justice is an insult to African Americans.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted on Tuesday night: “I will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks the law.”© AFP/Getty Images Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted on Tuesday night: “I will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks…Warren quoted a 1986 speech from the late Senate Ted Kennedy, who referred to Sessions as a “throwback to a shameful era” and a “disgrace” to the Department of Justice.

She also read from a letter written by King in March 1986, expressing her opposition to Sessions as a federal district court judge for the southern district of Alabama. “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,” King wrote.

Scott King 1986 Letter and Testimony Signed by The Guardian on Scribd