February 9 2017
Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who can always be counted on to call out his party when he thinks it has been deficient in comity or decorum, calls the "silencing" of Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor "long overdue."
The South Carolina senator appeared on the Mike Gallagher Show Wednesday, where he said Warren reading the letter from Coretta Scott King -- in which she expressed opposition to Jeff Sessions' nomination to the federal bench in 1986 -- was defamatory to Sessions, now an Alabama senator. The Massachusetts Democrat was ruled to be in violation of Senate rules for impugning another senator.
"The bottom line is, it was long overdue with her," he said. "I mean, she is clearly running for the nomination in 2020."
"The Democratic Party is being pushed really hard by the most extreme voices in their community, and they just don't know how to handle it," he added. "If they empower her, then I think the Democratic Party is gonna lose way with the vast majority of the American people."
Coretta Scott King is one of the great ladies of American history, but if Senator Warren wanted to smear Jeff Sessions as a racist (and she clearly did), she decided that hiding behind an icon was the best way to do it. To oppose the nomination, she needed to produce neutrally stated facts--but she probably knew that Sessions' supporters would be able to reply to these facts. A letter from Coretta Scott King, on the other hand . . .
When Elizabeth Warren accused, even by covering it in Ms. King’s words, Senator Sessions of “using the awesome power” of his office to chill the vote of black citizens, which is demonstrably untrue, she was warned by the chair. She continued. Mitch McConnell then cited sub-section 4 of Rule XIX when he arrived on the floor to put a stop to this nonsense.
The left, as the Wall Street Journal notes this morning, predictably has turned Warren into Rosa Parks:
Social media are overflowing with memes featuring the likes of Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and various suffragettes along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comment about the Senate sanction: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Likening one of the most powerful people in the world to an underground-railroad conductor may be a tad histrionic, but you be the judge.
HRH Warren isn’t a victim, even if she enjoys feeling she is, and Republicans aren’t trying to get her to “shut up,” as if that’s possible. She knowingly broke protocol and said Mr. Sessions was “racist” and prosecuting “a campaign of bigotry,” among other gross, false and personal insults that Democrats now feel entitled to hurl. Our guess is that Ms. Warren wanted to be punished so she could play out this political theater.
Senator Mike Rounds, who called Warren on Rule XIX, explained to Neil Cavuto that Rule XIX governs decorum on the floor and how Warren violated the rule. He said that the rule bars a senator from "directly or indirectly impugning" another senator. Calling another senator a liar, for example, as Senator Cruz once did, could also violate Rule XIX, but this has to be called immediately. There are ways to challenge a fellow senator without resorting to the "racist" smear, but Democrats are reaching for this epithet so regularly that their insult vocabulary risks atrophy.
Raucous debate in the Senate is nothing new (not that I am dignifying Warren's antics as "debate"). But the Senate has turned into a zoo with, only this week, a futile, all-night talkathon aimed at . . . well aimed at nothing really, other than saying mean things about Betsy DeVos, who became secretary of education the next day. The Wall Street Journal concludes:
Democrats are within their rights, but at some point they might consider the precedents they’re setting. The Senate is an institution that used to run on civility and comity. Republicans as recently as 2009 confirmed 11 of President Obama’s 15 cabinet nominees by the end of January—even Tim Geithner as the Treasury Secretary who would run the IRS though he hadn’t paid all of his taxes.
Harry Reid’s unilateral destruction of the filibuster for nominees has made it impossible for Democrats to defeat a nominee without GOP help, and the next Democratic President’s cabinet is likely to receive the Trump treatment. If Democrats keep up their misbehavior, Mr. McConnell has plenty of tools he can use to pass legislation they won’t like. If Democrats want to turn the Senate into the House, with its majority rule and restricted debate, they may get their wish.
Perhaps the silencing of Senator Warren was a first step in restoring the Senate, but that is a project that will take participation by both parties.