In an incident that exposed the Senate's divide over race, Senate Republicans on Tuesday night voted to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as she spoke out against attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and noted his record on civil rights.
The rebuke of Warren sparked outcry from Democrats, who charged that McConnell was selectively enforcing the rule to protect Sessions and that silencing Warren was demeaning.
Warren was reading aloud a letter written by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., about Sessions. She wrote the letter in 1986 when he was being considered for a federal judgeship. King accused Sessions of promoting racist policies, and witnesses at his hearing accused him of making racist remarks, leading the Senate to deny him confirmation at the time.
In the letter, King wrote that 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." Warren read that line on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected to Warren's speech, citing an obscure rule barring senators from "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," per NBC News.
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