Silenced on the Senate floor, Democrat Elizabeth
Warren took her criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump's
nominee for attorney general out to the hallway - and found a
much larger platform.
Republican senators voted on Tuesday evening to end Warren's
reading of a letter written 30 years ago by Martin Luther King
Jr's widow that criticized Senator Jeff Sessions, the nominee to
lead the Justice Department, for his civil rights record.
The action prompted a tide of support on Facebook for
Warren, a darling of the political left, under a hashtag
#LetLizSpeak after she went outside the chamber and read the
letter in a video posted on the site that drew more than 5
million views by Wednesday morning.
"The Republicans took away my right to read this letter on
the floor - so I'm right outside, reading it now," she said.
The unusual rebuke of Warren came after the
Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday cleared the way for
confirming Sessions as attorney general. A final
vote was expected on Wednesday.
Warren took to the Senate floor to argue against the
nomination, reading the letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986
about Sessions to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which
ultimately rejected his nomination to be a federal judge.
Sessions had "used the awesome power of his office to chill
the free exercise of the vote by black citizens" when he
prosecuted voting fraud cases when he was the U.S. attorney in
Alabama," according to the letter read by Warren.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut her off, saying
that she broke a Senate rule that "impugned the motives and
conduct of our colleague from Alabama." Senators voted 49-43 to
Warren has been a fiery critic of Trump since he launched
his presidential campaign. Democrats have expressed concern
about Sessions' record on race, immigration and criminal justice
"Mr. President, I am surprised that the words of Coretta
Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States
Senate. I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks," the
senator from Massachusetts responded.
Fellow Democrats flocked to Warren's defense on Wednesday.
"This is not what America is about - silencing speech -
especially in this chamber," Senate Minority Leader Chuck
A number of Democratic senators read from King's letter,
including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. "When I
read the same letter as @SenWarren, no one prevented me from
speaking. Sen. McConnell owes Sen. Warren an apology.
#LetLizSpeak," Sanders said in a Twitter post.
Many civil rights and immigration groups also have concerns
about Sessions with the American Civil Liberties Union saying
his positions on gay rights, capital punishment, abortion rights
and presidential authority in times of war should be examined.
Sessions was a federal prosecutor in 1986 when he became
only the second nominee in 50 years to be denied confirmation as
a federal judge. This came after allegations that he had made
racist remarks, including testimony that he had called an
African-American prosecutor "boy," an allegation Sessions
Sessions said he was not a racist, but he said at his
hearing in 1986 that groups such as the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil
Liberties Union could be considered "un-American." He also
acknowledged he had called the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a
"piece of intrusive legislation."