On Tuesday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren took to the floor of the Senate to give a speech opposing the confirmation of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general of the United States.
But Warren's speech came to an abrupt and screeching halt when she was silenced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for attempting to read a letter penned in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, activist and wife of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to oppose Sessions' appointment to a federal judgeship.
In her letter, King wrote, “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.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prohibited Warren from reading the letter on the grounds that it "impugned the motives and conduct" of Sen. Sessions.
Though King's letter had been written to be sent to Congress, it was never entered into the congressional record because Senator Strom Thurmond, one-time segregationist and then-chair-of-the-judiciary-committee, would not allow it.
In order to stop Warren, McConnell invoked rule XIX, which prohibits 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."
Here is the text of the original 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 letter be made a part of the hearing record.
I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions.
Coretta Scott King