When a confirmation hearing takes a sudden turn and gives us historical pause, we need to stop, listen, think, reflect, and determine how to move forward. For this post, I will use the up-to-the-minute tweets and articles that are providing the narrative for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s silencing during the reading of Coretta Scott King’s letter. The words of Mitch McConnell now become a mantra when talking about how Warren continued to read the letter even though she had been warned. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
McConnell: “Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation,” he said. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Ref: The Washington Post, Kane & O’Keefe, 2017
In opposing the nomination of Senator Sessions, Senator Warren was reading a letter by the late Coretta Scott King when she was stopped, based on Rule XIX of the Standing Rules of the Senate that says, “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Senator Warren appealed to continue reading, but was told to take her seat. The Washington Post online has the video within the Kane & O’Keefe, 2017 article. Senator Kamala Harris posted a link to the full letter here:
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 8, 2017
In essence, Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter strongly opposed Mr. Sessions for a federal judgeship, and Senator Warren was reading that letter to provide reasons why Sessions should not be confirmed as Attorney General. Senator Warren was prevented from continuing to read the letter.
The “Nevertheless, she persisted” portion of McConnell’s description of Senator Warren’s actions is resonating. I had the pleasure of meeting Senator Warren at a Massachusetts conference on Women in Public Service, where I co-chaired a session on women in STEM. Warren was a special guest speaker, and I will always remember that she took the time to talk with me. It wasn’t a long conversation … just a few minutes of an exchange, but memorable just the same.
Senator Warren was stopped from reading a document that is historical because, per McConnell, “The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama.”
How does one share information, or even have the chance to debate issues if there isn’t a chance to properly discuss and cite a source? There may be disagreement, and ultimately, one side over another will “win” the debate, but one should be given a chance to present a point.
May the words go down in history, as we are bold enough to seek, to uncover, and to share truths, no matter how hard they are to stomach. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”