President Trump has chosen a stunning number of cabinet members who don’t posses basic skills for the job, or who have a troubling history. His pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, belongs in the second category.
He is from Alabama and in 1986 he was nominated to be a federal judge. His nomination was blocked when it came to light that he had made some racist comments. Additionally, Coretta Scott King wrote a letter opposing Mr. Sessions’ nomination.
Fast forward to this week. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, during the senate debate, attempted to read Mrs. King’s letter. Idaho Senator James Risch objected and invoked Rule 19 that states: “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.” Until his appointment as Attorney General (and at the time of the incident), Mr. Sessions was a senator from Alabama. After Senator Risch made the charge, the senate voted along party lines and Senator Warren was removed from the debate.
Many (myself included) immediately saw this for the sexist attack that it is. I’m certain I’m not the only one who had never heard of Rule 19 and there’s a reason for that: it’s a complicated process.
In fact, I found only one time it was invoked, in 1979. It’s been threatened a few times.
But the senate’s history brims with members impute another. My best example comes from 2015 when Texas Senator Ted Cruz called Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell a liar.
It’s also worth noting that after Senator Warren was silenced other (male) Democratic senators finished reading Mrs. King’s letter.