Whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren deserved to be silenced by her Senate colleagues for demeaning fellow senator Jeff Sessions is a procedural matter. But the silencing of Warren was a serious measure in that it prevented her from reading a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow. King then wrote to “express my sincere opposition of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama.”
Warren’s GOP Senate colleagues voted to silence the Massachusetts senator in part because she had her hands on a proven weapon. King’s letter was part of broad opposition to Sessions’ appointment to the federal court back in 1986 — and the opposition was effective. Sessions was denied the judgeship. King’s concern in the letter was expressed so powerfully that not only did Warren read from it this week, but Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Bernie Sanders also read from King’s letter on the Senate floor. King asserted in her letter that “Mr. Sessions used the awesome powers of his office… to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.” Sanders and Brown weren’t rebuked by their colleagues. Both lawmakers — like Warren — are well aware of the letter’s power to persuade — or at least the power it had back in 1986.