Bernie Sanders expressed his solidarity with colleague Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday, reading aloud on the Senate floor a letter from Coretta Scott King that blasted Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’ record on civil rights, an act that got the Massachusetts senator shut down the previous night by the chamber’s Republicans.
Warren was forced off the Senate floor Tuesday evening after the Republican majority accused her of impugning Sessions’ reputation by reading the letter, under a little-known and little-used rule that prohibits such conduct. “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge,” King wrote in the missive.
King wrote her letter more than three decades ago to oppose President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Sessions to a federal judgeship, following his service as a federal prosecutor in Alabama. At the time, his appointment was torpedoed by allegations that he made racially disparaging remarks about minorities and that he failed to protect the voting rights of black people.
Senate Republicans voted on Wednesday to formally rebuke her for violating the rule, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” he said, defending his actions. Democrats seized on the statement, charging that silencing Warren was motivated by sexism. “#ShePersisted” is now a trending hashtag on Twitter.