On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked a rarely used rule to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as she read aloud from a 30-year-old letter by civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, in opposition to Jeff Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship in 1986.
McConnell took particular issue with Warren as she quoted King, who wrote that when acting as a federal prosecutor, Sessions used his power to “chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”
The GOP then invoked the little-used Rule XIX, which says that “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.”
After a few parliamentary moves, McConnell called for a vote to affirm Daines’ ruling that Warren was out of order. The GOP-controlled Senate backed him up, 49-43, before defeating a Democratic effort to restore Warren’s speaking privileges, 50-43.
Tonight, Eisenberg and a small group of friends will take up the mantle and read King’s speech on C Street NE, right outside McConnell’s home.
“We felt he should have listened to it last night on the Senate floor, and since he wouldn’t listen to it last night, we will read it to him tonight,” says Eisenberg, a lawyer in her 60s whose practice represents non-profits. Though she’s participated in protests before, including the Women’s March and another recent rally, this is the first time Eisenberg is helping lead the charge.
It started with another friend’s comment on Facebook, saying women should read King’s letter to McConnell at his own abode. The conversation grew from there.
Eisenberg asked if anyone knew where the Senate majority leader lives. Somebody did. She asked if anyone had a bullhorn. Someone else had one.
“We’re just regular D.C. people—parents, grandparents, regular citizens of the District of Columbia and Maryland,” she says, adding that some are longtime activists and others have been more recently “activated by the president’s policies and his general unfitness for office.” They aren’t planning any acts of civil disobedience outside McConnell’s home and expect a small crowd.
“This protest is being led by women, but men and women oppose Jeff Sessions for attorney general and oppose the sexism of not allowing Senator Warren to speak,” Eisenberg says.
“Warren was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., she was not trashing Sessions,” Eisenberg says. “She was reading a letter written in 1986 that talked about things that I believe are factual about how Jeff Sessions used his power as the United States attorney to try to stop black people from voting.”
“The people are making our voices heard. We don’t have a vote, but we have voice,” Eisenberg says. “And we don’t want Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general. He is singularly unfit.”