Republican senators cut off and then silenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) Tuesday night for reading a letter criticizing President Donald Trump’s attorney general pick. But Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) managed to read portions of the same letter opposing nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) without any interruption a few hours later.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had earlier invoked Rule XIX to stop Warren from reading the 1986 letter written by Corretta Scott King, civil rights hero and Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, when Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship. He argued this line from King’s letter was in violation: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”
The GOP later voted to silence Warren for the remaining 30 hours of debate, as Senate Democrats voiced their outrage.
When Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) took the floor, he yielded to Merkley, who seized the opportunity to read portions of the letter aloud.
“I wanted to take a few moments and share some of the letter that was discussed earlier and share it in a fashion appropriate under our rules,” Merkley said. “I think it’s important for us to understand the context of what this letter was all about.”
No one stopped Merkley as he read portions of the letter, concluding with this quote from King:
“I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court.”
Merkley added that he applauded Warren’s efforts to make her point and share the letter with the Senate.
When Booker took the floor, he said he was “gravely disappointed” and found it “disturbing” that Warren was silenced while exercising her constitutional duty.
“She wasn’t just quoting something that she heard on the street,” he said. “She was actually quoting Coretta Scott King.”
After Warren was silenced, she turned to Facebook Live to read the letter in its entirety outside the Senate.
The video has been viewed 3.4 million times.
Watch the video below to hear Merkley read portions of the letter.