Do not fuck with Elizabeth Warren. For those somehow uninitiated, I highly recommend YouTubing “Senator Elizabeth Warren + Betsy DeVos.” (“Tim Kaine + Betsy DeVos” is pretty delicious, too. But I digress.)
Warren has been herculean in her efforts to speak on behalf of us: the horrified, the stunned, the scared. But the bullshit that unfolded this week was appalling. Of course, she handled it like a boss.
On Wednesday, the GOP majority in the Senate used an archaic and wildly unfair tactic to silence her, preventing her from quoting Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor to illustrate her opposition to Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general. Yes, you read that correctly: The verb “silence” is now in our lexicon—as if we’re living in a communist-rule country where those who express dissent are punished.
It happened during what the Democrats planned to be an all-nighter, their second after the debate the night before over Betsy DeVos’ nomination for secretary of education, which was confirmed with Vice President Mike Pence’s intervening vote.
Quoting a 1986 letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, the text of which can be read in full here, Warren rebuked Sessions’ judicial nomination on the grounds of racism, which technically put her in violation of Senate rules for “impugning the motives” of Sessions. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell interrupted her mid-speech and invoked the rule, and the GOP-controlled Senate backed him up. Warren was then forbidden from speaking again on Sessions’ nomination.
Bernie Sanders spoke later, expressing his dismay. “I want to express my very strong opposition to Senator McConnell’s effort to deny Senator Elizabeth Warren the opportunity to express her point of view… This is the United States Senate, and the American people expect from us a vigorous debate when it comes to the important issues facing this country," he said on the Senate floor. “And I think, as all of us are aware, issues of civil rights, issues of voter suppression, issues of criminal justice reform are enormous issues. And those are issues that the next attorney general of the United States will be dealing with.”
Sanders continued to say, “We need to hear all points of view, and the idea that a letter, a statement made by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, could not be presented and spoken about here on the floor of the Senate is, to me, incomprehensible.” Fellow Senate Democrats Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio all backed her up as well, defying the ruling and reading portions of King’s letter.
Sessions was confirmed late Wednesday night. But Warren’s formal silencing echoed on Thursday and Friday, ironically deriving a hashtag from McConnell’s own words: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” #ShePersisted has since become a digital rallying cry.
Though Warren hasn’t used the hashtag herself, she did take to Donald Trump’s favorite medium, Twitter, to disprove any doubt that she would take this lying down. This reporter’s favorite one in the series?
There’s no Rule 19 to silence me from talking about Jeff Sessions anymore. So let me say loudly & clearly: This is just the beginning.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 9, 2017
Now that’s a bad bitch.