On the Senate floor Wednesday night, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) used parliamentary procedure to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) after she quoted from a letter by Coretta Scott King, preventing her from reading it.
Later in the night, however, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) elaborated on the context of the letter and quoted from it at length unimpeded.
The letter was addressed to then-Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) in 1986. In it, King objects to Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) nomination to be a federal judge due to his use of “the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens.” King continues, “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of this office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
McConnell objected to Warren citing this section of the letter, saying that she had “impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.”
He then invoked Rule 19 to stop Warren from speaking on Sessions for the duration of the debate. The motion passed the Senate on the strength of Republican votes.
A few hours later, however, Sen. Merkely took the floor and quoted from the letter at length. Though the floor was largely empty, there is always a member of the majority party — the Republicans — presiding.