The feminist, political and social activist Gloria Steinem has given a warning of dire consequences for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after silencing Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on the Senate floor and stopping her from reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King, criticizing Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on civil rights issues.
According to Steinem, Senator McConnell’s “days are numbered” after he silenced Warren on the Senate floor. Steinem gave the warning after TMZ spoke with her at the Los Angeles Airport, a few hours before the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
Steinem did not give details about how she intended to fulfill the threat to bring down McConnell, but she insisted that the Senate Majority Leader’s action would have dire political consequences.
Steinem was responding to the incident on the Senate floor on Tuesday night when McConnell invoked an obscure Senate rule, Rule 19, to silence Senator Warren during a debate over the nomination of Sessions for the position of attorney general. Steinem had earlier cut short a speech she was delivering at a women’s leadership conference in California on Tuesday night to talk about the rare incident on the Senate floor.
Warren was silenced after she tried, while participating in the debate on the Senate floor over Session’s nomination as attorney general, to read a letter that Martin Luther Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King, had written in 1986 to Senator Strom Thurmond, criticizing Jeff Sessions, then a federal prosecutor, and urging the Senate to reject his nomination as a federal judge.
Republicans voted to uphold a decision that Warren had violated Senate Rule 19 which prohibits Senators from impugning each other on the Senate floor.
“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.”
King argued in her letter to Senator Thurmond that Sessions was not fit to be a federal judge because he has a track record of working to suppress black voters. According to King, Session’s appointment as a federal judge “would irreparably damage the work of my husband.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee eventually rejected Session’s nomination.
McConnell invoked the rule soon after Warren read King’s letter. She had also raised issues about Session’s record on women’s rights.
“In 2013, Senator Sessions voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that expanded the protections and services provided to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence,” Warren said, according to the Huffington Post.
McConnell’s action sparked a backlash, with feminists arguing that it had undertones of sexism because after Warren was silenced, three male Senators, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), read the letter on the Senate floor. McConnell, according to Emily Peck, writing in the Huffington Post, appeared to have singled out Warren by invoking the rarely-used rule during a debate over Session’s nomination where criticism was legitimate.
The action highlights how women are silenced in public life by characterizing them as “bossy,” “too loud,” “b***hy,” or “nasty,” according to Peck.
McConnell’s words, “She [Warren] was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” later inspired the hashtag #ShePersisted, now trending on Twitter.
"Nevertheless, she persisted" is likely showing up on a lot of protest signs this weekend. https://t.co/dbA1UaqwUU— Rebecca Traister (@rtraister) February 8, 2017
Many observers insisted that McConnell miscalculated by silencing Warren because he only succeeded in making an incident that should have been an obscure partisan debate on the Senate floor a national issue. He handed Warren a platform and a megaphone to further boost her political profile and inadvertently generated national interest in the King letter.
Warren later read the letter on Facebook Live, generating millions of views, and drawing even more attention to the civil rights issues underlying the objection to Sessions’ nomination as attorney general.
[Featured Image by Bloomberg/Getty Images]