Elizabeth Warren Silenced on the Senate Floor

By Jenna Hutchins
February 8, 2017

As the U.S. Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions’ nomination to become the next Attorney General of the United States on Wednesday, the reprimanding and silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren during a speech on the Senate floor has given the women’s movement more to fight for.

During the contentious debate in the Senate by Democrats against Sessions’ nomination, Senator Elizabeth Warren was interrupted and silenced by Republicans for violating an arcane rule in her speech. Warren was reading the words of Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., from 1986 where King expressed her deep concern and strong opposition to Sessions’ nomination for a federal judiciary position, citing his record on civil rights. According to King’s letter, Sessions had “used the awesome power of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.” This letter’s powerful statements were to be a key part of Senator Warren’s discourse until she was forced to stop talking and sit down by Senate Republicans for violating Rule 19, Section 2, which warns against demeaning other senators during debate.

As the marathon continued into Wednesday morning, three male senators successfully read King’s letter without objection from the Republican party. Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the men who read the letter, said it was “outrageous” that Warren was barred from the debate. Many women on social media spoke out against what they perceived as a gender-based injustice against Senator Warren and birthed the trending hashtag, #LetLizSpeak. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s words on Senator Warren have become a rallying cry for America’s women: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Former secretary Hillary Clinton shared on Twitter a video of Warren reading the letter after being denied her chance on the floor of the Senate, with the caption of McConnell’s words. Although Warren was blocked from speaking her mind in the Senate, the women of social media have refused to let her be silenced.