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GOP silences Sen. Warren male colleagues read Coretta Scott King letter

By Andrew V. Pestano
GOP silences Sen. Warren male colleagues read Coretta Scott King letter
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., delivered a speech Tuesday that was cut short after she was accused of violating a Senate rule during debate over Jeff Sessions' nomination as attorney general. She read aloud quotes from Coretta Scott King and late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who opposed Sessions' federal judgeship nomination decades ago, which was enough for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to interrupt Warren's speech and to hold a vote to rebuke her. Warren's male colleagues later read the letter after entering it into the Senate record. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- After Senate Republicans passed a rebuke of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for reading a letter by Coretta Scott King, her male colleagues on Wednesday were able to read aloud the letter during a debate on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

Several male Democratic senators read some or all of the letter uninterrupted after Sen Tom Udall, D-N.M., entered the civil right leader's letter into the Senate record..

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"I entered Coretta Scott King's letter [about] Sessions into the Senate record and read it from the floor -- her words should not be silenced," Udall wrote on Twitter. "I read Mrs. King's letter about Mr. Sessions' commitment to justice for all. I leave it to my colleagues to assess that commitment."

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RELATED Read: Coretta Scott King's full letter

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley all read from King's letter.

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"I wanted to take a few moments now and share some of the letter that was discussed earlier and share it in a fashion that is appropriate under our rules," Merkley said. "I think it's important for us to understand the context of what this letter was all about."

On Tuesday night, while Warren read aloud the letter by the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., interrupted Warren's speech and said she broke Senate rules by reading past statements. King wrote the letter about Sessions during his confirmation for a federal judgeship three decades ago.

The Senate voted 49-43 along party lines on Tuesday to rebuke Warren, who was accused of violating Rule 19 of the Senate that says senators are not allowed to "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."

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"I will not be silent about a nominee for AG who has made derogatory & racist comments that have no place in our justice system," Warren said after the rebuke.

In the letter, King wrote that Sessions used "the awesome power of his office to chill the pre-exercise of the vote by black citizens."

Prior to reading King's letter, Warren quoted late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who was a senior member of the Judiciary Committee who opposed Sessions' nomination to become a federal judge.

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"He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position," Kennedy said, which Warren quoted.

"Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation," McConnell later said. "Nevertheless, she persisted."

In 1986, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions for a post as federal judge after he was accused of racially charged comments and actions.

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During confirmation hearing testimony before the committee, former colleagues said Sessions referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other organizations as "communist inspired" and "un-American organizations with anti-traditional American values."

Thomas H. Figures, an African American who previously served as a federal prosecutor alongside Sessions, said Sessions called him "boy" -- a term considered a racial slur within context -- and said Sessions said the Ku Klux Klan was fine "until I found out they smoked pot." Sessions would later dismiss the Ku Klux Klan comment as a joke, adding that the organization was a "force for hatred and bigotry."

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