VIDEO: Heinrich Reads Coretta Scott King Letter Opposing Jeff Sessions, Points To Hypocrisy Of Republicans Silencing Elizabeth Warren

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 8, 2017) – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) spoke on the Senate floor today opposing the nomination of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as Attorney General of the United States. Heinrich read an excerpt from a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that urged Congress to block the nomination of Sessions for federal judge. When U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to read the same letter last night on the Senate floor, Republicans voted to silence her, claiming that she was in violation of Senate rules aimed at preventing Senators from impugning the motives of their colleagues.

“Silencing Senator Warren for reading Mrs. King’s letter under the guise of following Senate Rules is hypocritical, and rightfully leads many to question whether the Majority Leader has a different standard of expected conduct for female Senators compared to their male counterparts, like Senators Cruz and Cotton,” Heinrich said referring to speeches U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) gave on separate occasions in years past on the Senate floor. “I have already announced that I will vote against the nomination of Senator Sessions, and after this episode last night, I believe that now more than ever this position will require an unwavering commitment to protect Americans' constitutional rights and to stand up against discrimination and hate. Like the thousands of New Mexicans I've heard from, I lack confidence in Senator Sessions.”

Below are Heinrich’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

In 1986, Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote a letter urging Congress to block the nomination of Jeff Sessions for federal judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee would ultimately reject his nomination.

Here we are three decades later, and Senator Sessions, who cannot erase his troubling record on civil rights, is again undergoing confirmation hearings as President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General.

I’d like to read an excerpt from Mrs. King’s letter and ask unanimous consent that the letter in its entirety be printed in the record following my remarks.  Mrs. King wrote, and I quote:

“I write to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. My professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting. 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. 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. […] I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions.”

When Senator Elizabeth Warren tried to read this same letter last night here on the Senate floor, Republicans voted to silence her, citing that she was in violation of Senate rules aimed at preventing Senators from impugning the motives of their colleagues.

The move by some of my colleagues to silence the words of Senator Warren and Mrs. King last night is troubling not only because of its threat to our democratic values, but it also is hypocritical.

During a scathing speech in 2015 in this same chamber, Senator Ted Cruz went so far as personally attacking the Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and accusing him of lying.

In May of last year, Senator Tom Cotton, also here on the Senate floor, delivered a speech directly criticizing former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid -- using the words "vulgar" "incoherent" and "cancerous" to describe him.

He said here on the Senate floor: “I am forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader. Normally, like every other American, I ignore them.” 

Neither of these Senators were silenced. 

Neither were silenced for making these obviously attacks.

Neither were told to sit down and take their seat.

Silencing Senator Warren for reading Mrs. King’s letter under the guise of following Senate Rules is hypocritical, and rightfully leads many to question whether the Majority Leader has a different standard of expected conduct for female Senators compared to their male counterparts, like Senators Cruz and Cotton.

I have already announced that I will vote against the nomination of Senator Sessions, and after this episode last night, I believe that now more than ever this position will require an unwavering commitment to protect Americans' constitutional rights and to stand up against discrimination and hate.

Like the thousands of New Mexicans I've heard from, I lack confidence in Senator Sessions.

I urge the American people to read and share Coretta Scott King’s letter, and continue to make your own voices heard.

Because we will not be silenced. We will persist.