Elizabeth Warren impugned

On the 8th of February, Republican Senators voted to silence Democratic Senator, Elizabeth Warren while she was condemning the nomination of proposed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions by reading out a letter written by Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

Was it right to silence an elected representative on the floor of the house?

On the 8th of February, Republican Senators voted to silence Democratic Senator, Elizabeth Warren while she was condemning the nomination of proposed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions by reading out a letter written by Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

The letter accused Mr. Sessions of using the ‘awesome power of his office to chill the pre-exercise of the vote by black citizens’. 

Who are the people involved?

Elizabeth Warren is a politician and Senior Senator from the state from Massachusetts. She is a lawyer by profession and academic, notably teaching at Harvard Law School.

Coretta Scott King was an American author, activist, civil rights leader and the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. She was an advocate for African-American equality.

Jeff Sessions is an American politician and Junior Senator from Alabama from 1997 to 2017. He is a member of the Republican party and was confirmed as the next Attorney General on 8th of February 2017. He has been accused of making racially insensitive remarks and has been criticized on his record for civil rights while he was the Attorney General of Alabama.

Analysis

  • Rule No.XIX was invoked which prohibits Senators from ascribing to “another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator’.
  • Warren was shocked by Majority leader, Mitch McConnell and accused him of selectively citing examples of Republicans to evaluate the limits of the law. 
  • Does the implementation of this mark the start of an era of censorship on the floor of the Senate and the domination of the Majority over the views of the Minority leaders?
  • At a time when the polarization between the two parties is at an all time high, this incident questions the sanctity of this democratic institution.

Assessment

Bringing up an archaic law which is more than a century old to silence a fellow Senator shows the state of American politics in modern times. Warren was well within her rights in exercising time allotted to her by the senate to speak on the floor of the house to criticize the appointment of Senator Sessions. More importantly the message sent out by appointing sessions as Attorney General is far from reassuring for the majority of the African-American community especially in a time of allegations of police brutality and racially motivated crimes.

Sessions’ track record speaks for itself. He is only the second person in the history of the United States’ federal judiciary to have been rejected by the Senate’s judiciary committee in the past when he was nominated to be a judge in the court of the Southern district of Alabama.  There have been questions over Sessions’ ability to be fair and impartial in issues about race.

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