On Feb. 7, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren was silenced by Senate Republicans as she criticized Senator Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general. In her speech, Warren read a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986, implying that Sen. Sessions was guilty of racial bias. When Warren began to quote the letter, the Republican senators cited Rule 19 and voted on party lines to shut her down.
Rule 19 was created as a result of a physical fist fight which broke out in 1902 on the Senate floor – it states, “No Senator in debate shall, 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.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the Senate’s decision to silence Warren, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended the Republicans’ decision to invoke the rule, and had forbidden Warren from participating in the floor debate of Sessions’ nomination.
Since Warren’s silence, Twitter and other social media platforms began protesting the silencing of the Senator. The hashtag “LetLizSpeak” was trending, and the Senate was in chaos as both parties revealed their opinions about the incident.
I will not be silent about a nominee for AG who has made derogatory & racist comments that have no place in our justice system.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017
The media attention Warren received after her silencing is similar to the attention Sally Yates received after she was fired. Yates, the former attorney general, was dismissed by President Trump after she criticized Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban. Both Warren and Yates’ incidents are shedding light on the conflict that is occurring in Washington D.C. in only the first month that Trump has been in office.
This trend of conflict and chaos amongst the administration is continuing, as it was revealed that Michael Flynn was asked to resign after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with the Russian ambassador.