Debate on Sessions nomination explodes over Coretta Scott King letter

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

corettascottking_loc_wc_web120.pngCoretta Scott King

The United States Senate debate over Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (D-Ala.) boiled over into confusion and accusations on Tuesday, February 7 as Senate Democrats carried their opposition into an all-night long protest.

But at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recited the words of a letter authored by Coretta Scott King, the late widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that’s been in the Senate record for over 20 years, the drama hit an all-new level.

The Senate floor fiasco would lead to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) releasing a blistering statement late in the evening calling the episode “disgusting” and evoking the name of Civil Rights Era villain and unrepentant racist Bull Connor.

Republican Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) objected to Warren’s reading of a 1986 letter by King’s widow, because it was critical of Sessions back when he was a prosecutor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) became the face of Risch’s objection, and rose to object to Warren’s reading of the Coretta Scott King letter.  McConnell asserted that the letter violated a Senate rule prohibiting senators from ‘Impugning’ other senators — known as “rule 19.”

Warren was then ordered to stop reading and take her seat on the Senate floor.  The Senate then voted to effectively censure Warren for the remainder of the debate on the Sessions nomination by a vote of 49-43.

The Senate voted on Wednesday, February 8 to confirm Senator Sessions to secede Attorney General Loretta Lynch as the nation’s top cop under the Trump Administration.

King wrote the letter in 1986 urging a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee to reject then U.S. Attorney Sessions’ nomination for a district court judgeship. Coretta Scott King’s letter in part read that, “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.”

The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus released a blistering statement on the incident on the Senate floor hours later.

“Republican senators’ decision tonight to silence Coretta Scott King from the grave is disgusting and disgraceful,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the CBC, in a statement on the incident. “Mrs. King’s characterization of then U.S. Attorney Senator Sessions was accurate in 1986 and it is accurate now. He is as much of a friend to the Black community and civil rights as Bull Connor and the other Good Old Boys were during the Civil Rights Movement.”

Senators stood confused after that vote. Asking for points of order and clarifications on whether or not they could refer to anything negative about Senator Sessions.  Later in the debate, four male Senators, read from the same King letter that Senator Elizabeth Warren was censured for reading.

Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King’s youngest daughter Bernice King tweeted in support of Warren shortly after Warren was silence by Republican objections. “How do you honor #MLK but dishonor #CorettaScottKing, architect of the King legacy? #LetCorettaSpeak#LetLizSpeak” she wrote.

Senator Sessions had already been criticized during his confirmation hearing for several issues related to race, voting and his actions as a prosecutor.

Sessions once called the gutting of the 2006 Voting Rights Act reauthorization named after Coretta Scott King, “good news for the South.”  He also once prosecuted three individuals for voting fraud, including Albert Turner after they registered many in Alabama to vote.

The incident was the latest evidence that the coming years that mark the start of the Trump Administration are likely to be contentious ones on Capitol Hill.

 

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Warren rebuked for quoting Coretta Scott King while debating Jeff Sessions’ nomination

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Coretta Scott King

By: Paul KaneThe Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., led a party-line rebuke Tuesday night of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for her speech opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, striking down her words for impugning the Alabama senator’s character.
In an extraordinarily rare move, McConnell interrupted Warren’s speech, in a near-empty chamber as the nomination debate heads toward a Wednesday evening vote, and said that she had breached Senate rules by reading past statements against Sessions from figures such as the late senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and the late Coretta Scott King.
“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,” McConnell said, then setting up a series of roll-call votes on Warren’s conduct.
It was the latest clash in the increasingly hostile debate over confirming President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, during which Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to force through nominees without proper vetting. Democrats, unable to stop the confirmations that require simple majorities, have countered by using extreme delay tactics that have dragged out the process longer than any in history for a new president’s Cabinet.
The Democratic moves, including a round-the-clock debate Tuesday night before Wednesday’s confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, reached a boiling point during the debate over Sessions.
McConnell specifically cited portions of a letter that King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Sessions’ 1986 nomination to be a federal judge.
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” King wrote, referencing controversial prosecutions at the time that Sessions served as the U.S. attorney for Alabama. Earlier, Warren read from the 1986 statement of Kennedy, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee who led the opposition then against Sessions, including the Massachusetts Democrat’s concluding line: “He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”
The Senate voted, 49 to 43, strictly on party lines, to uphold the ruling that Warren violated rules of debate. Warren is now forbidden from speaking during the remainder of the debate on the nomination of Sessions.
“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said after McConnell’s motion.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., a freshman, issued a warning to Warren at that point, singling out Kennedy’s “disgrace” comment, and 25 minutes later McConnell came to the floor and set in motion the battle, citing the comments in the King letter as crossing the line.
Other Democrats later came to her defense, but the liberal firebrand’s speech ended with a simple admonition from Daines: “The senator will take her seat.”
Warren, a liberal firebrand who some activists want to run for president, took to social media to attack McConnell and Republicans for shutting down her speech.