On Wednesday afternoon, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders released a video statement via Twitter condemning Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s actions in banning Elizabeth Warren from participating in the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings. Sanders’ scathing statement called out McConnell’s hypocrisy, and said McConnell owes Warren an apology. Later that evening, despite Sanders vigorously speaking against Jeff Sessions, the Senate voted to confirm him in a vote of 52 to 47.
On Tuesday Senator Warren read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, and McConnell accused Warren of violating a rule which bars senators from impugning one another. According to the Chicago Tribune, McConnell interrupted Warren’s speech, and succeeded in passing a party-line vote rebuking her.
The letter Elizabeth Warren read from specifically addressed Sessions’ ability to be an impartial member of the federal judiciary. A portion of the letter called Sessions a disgrace.
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens … He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”
You don't ban a senator from participating in debate. Sen. McConnell owes Sen. Warren an apology. This is a fight we'll continue. pic.twitter.com/gCuvYiElMc
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 8, 2017
To prove his point that the Senate had unjustly silenced Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders read the very same letter on the same floor and was not silenced.
“It is beyond outrageous that majority leader Mitch McConnell has denied Elizabeth Warren the right to participate in the debate over whether or not Jeff Sessions becomes our next attorney general. What Elizabeth Warren did is read a letter from Coretta Scott King, from 1986, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s what she did. I did exactly the same thing today, same exact letter, same exact words. I am not banned from participating in the debate over Jeff Sessions.”
Bernie then vowed that the fight against Trump, and Republican policies that go against the American people, will continue in force.
“Senator McConnell owes Elizabeth Warren an apology. Elizabeth Warren must be immediately allowed to participate in that debate. This is not what the United States Senate is about … This is a fight we are going to continue.”
On his official Facebook page, Bernie Sanders gave a bit more detail into his reading of King’s 1986 letter. He said no one objected to his reading the letter, and he was also allowed to enter the entire text of the letter into the record, thus, again, bringing up the question of why Elizabeth Warren was silenced but not Bernie Sanders.
Later on Wednesday, Bernie Sanders addressed the Senate during the debate over Sessions.
“We have a president who does not really understand the Constitution of the United States of America. Who does not understand the separation of powers in the Constitution… We need an attorney general who will have the courage to tell the President of the United States when he is acting in a dangerous, authoritarian, or unconstitutional way.”
Senator Sessions’ record on civil rights has Democrats and progressives worried, and for good reason. The Justice Department, which Trump has tapped him to lead, is the primary agency that ensures the rights of Americans are protected, regardless of race, religion, gender, or disability. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders take issue with Sessions’ history of supporting policies that suppress members of minority groups.
The Atlantic notes that Sessions believes laws protecting vulnerable Americans are “intrusive,” thinks that giving equality to the LGBT community is a threat to Western civilization, and does not support criminal justice reform.
“Sessions’s selection as attorney general augurs an era in which the federal agency charged with protecting the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBT Americans will be led by a man who has been openly skeptical, if not opposed, to its past efforts to do so.”
In another tweet, Bernie Sanders accused Republicans of moving the United States toward a direction he called unAmerican.
“Donald Trump and Republicans are quickly moving us in an un-American and authoritarian direction. This cannot be allowed to take place.”
[Featured Image by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]