Some senators called the censure of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., over her criticisms of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., “selective enforcement.”
Social media users had a stronger term for it: sexism.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, accused Warren of “impugning the motives of our colleague,” around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. Warren had been reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader and the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., protesting the nomination of Sessions to a federal court in 1986. A Senate committee at the time rejected Sessions’ nomination.
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“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts,” King wrote in part, and Warren quoted on the floor of the Senate. “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”
Warren was visibly shocked and tried to appeal McConnell’s decision, but was forced to sit down and could not resume speaking. McConnell cited her accusing a fellow senator of chilling the free exercise to vote by black citizens as reason for the reprimand.
Several Democratic senators condemned McConnell’s move, including Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Hours later, at 11:13 p.m., he said he wanted to share King’s letter “in a fashion appropriate under our rules.”
Merkley quoted several parts of the letter also quoted by Warren, but — unlike Warren — left out parts of the letter that mentioned Sessions by name. He did name Sessions towards the end of his testimony, however, when he read the conclusion of King’s statement.
“I do not believe Jefferson Sessions possesses the requisite judgment, competence and sensitivity to the rights guaranteed by the federal civil rights laws to qualify for appointment to the federal district court,” Merkley quoted from the letter.
Neither McConnell nor the presiding member of the Senate reprimanded or censured Merkley as they did with Warren. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, called the action “selective enforcement,” “problematic,” and “disappointing.”
Twitter users called it “sexist” and a “double standard.”
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” McConnell explained of the decision to censure Warren. Social media then took up #ShePersisted as a rallying cry.