February 8, 2017

Whitehouse: “Let Liz speak!”

Whitehouse stands up after Warren silenced by Republicans for reading Coretta Scott King letter

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) yesterday evening took to the Senate floor in support of his colleague, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who had been silenced by Senate Republicans after reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King’s letter, which illustrated her thoughts on the character of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), had been submitted to the Senate decades earlier when Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship.  Sessions is now President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General of the United States.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked Senate Rule XIX, which prohibits Senators from “imputing to another Senator…any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”  After the Senate’s Presiding Officer found Warren in violation of the rule, Senate Republicans voted to uphold the finding, directing Warren, by rule, to take her seat, and barring her from speaking on the Senate floor for the remainder of the debate on Sessions’s nomination.

“Mr. President, what I don’t understand is that we have fairly significant responsibilities under the Constitution to provide advice and consent, and it appears that the ruling of the chair has just said that when a member of this body is the subject of that advice and consent, then derogatory information about that person is not in order and is a violation of Rule XIX on the Senate floor.  And with that being the ruling, I don’t know where we go about doing our duties,” Whitehouse said on the floor.

Following the silencing of Warren, Whitehouse asked unanimous consent that Mrs. King’s full letter be entered into the record.  A Republican senator objected to the request.

“Are we supposed to simply blind ourselves to derogatory information?  Discuss it privately in the cloakrooms?  Not bring it out on the floor of the United States Senate, this supposedly great debating society that actually has a constitutional responsibility to discuss both the advantages and the deficits of a particular nominee?” asked Whitehouse.

A video of Whitehouse’s remarks is available here.


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