WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) criticized Senate Republicans early Wednesday morning for voting to silence U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) hours earlier for reading a letter by Coretta Scott King and for stifling debate on the nomination of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for Attorney General.
Key excerpts of Murphy’s speech are below:
This is my first time on the floor since Senator Warren was gaveled down last evening – let me just speak for a moment about my deep, deep disappointment at the events of early last evening. I want to put this in the context of the political moment that we are living in. We have a President of the United States today who is a bully, who is using his office to try to stifle and quell debate. If you dare oppose him, frankly, whether you're a Republican or Democrat, you are going to be called names, you are going to be mocked in an effort to try to silence you.
And in the last week we have seen President Trump attempt this tactic on members of the judiciary. When he got a ruling he didn't like from a Judge in Washington that temporarily halted his ban on Muslims entering the country, he started personally attacking this judge, sending a signal to those in the judicial branch that if you dare oppose him, you are going to be singled out for ridicule.
The President of the United States is going to try to destroy your reputation and your career as a judge, as a jurist, as an impartial arbiter of the law if you rule against his political interests. It's an exceptional moment. It's an exceptional moment in which the President of the United States is trying to bully judges into ruling in his favor. It's an exceptional moment, though we've been watching it for the last two years, in which the President is trying to bully Members of Congress to kowtow to his interests.
And so I want to be very careful about how I talk about this because I have great respect for the parliamentary rulings of this body, but I don't understand why our Majority Leader chose to gavel down Senator Warren when she was simply reading a letter from Coretta Scott King. We celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King with a holiday every year in this country. In the individual greatness in the United States of America, it doesn't get any higher than Martin Luther King, and his widow wrote us a letter expressing her objections to the nomination of Jeff Sessions based upon the belief that he would not live up to the legacy of her husband and his work in civil rights.
Nothing could be more relevant to this discussion. The opinion of a member of Martin Luther King's family on whether or not this nominee was going to enforce appropriately and vigorously the civil rights laws of this nation, and Senator Warren was silenced.
Now, I don't know what the motive was and it certainly would be inappropriate for me to guess at it. But the effect of the Majority Leader's action is to stifle debate, to make it less likely that members of the Democratic minority will raise objections to Senator Sessions' nomination and record objections as to his conduct.
I'm not trying to equate what happened here last night with what our President has done, but there is a practice now – there is a pattern of behavior amongst Republicans trying to stifle and quell opposition to this President using – the President uses the bullying power of Twitter and the majority now is twisting the rules of the U.S. Senate. I say that because while it may be true that technically the rules of the Senate don't allow you to talk about the conduct of a fellow Senator, how on earth can you debate a nominee from this body to the Cabinet without questioning their conduct?
And so technically the rule may say that you cannot talk about the conduct of a fellow Senator, but how on earth can this body operate when members of it are nominated to important positions if we cannot talk about the conduct of fellow members and we cannot criticize the conduct of fellow members?
Now, I appreciate the fact that Senator Merkley was able to come down to the floor and read the full letter into the record overnight. I appreciate the fact that Senator Booker was able to read into the record testimony from another civil rights hero, John Lewis, without being similarly gaveled down for their conduct. But this effort – this continued effort to try to stop people who oppose President Trump and his agenda from speaking truth to power, it's not right. It's not right and it will, frankly, have the opposite effect. You've seen what happened overnight on our side. We are not going to stop talking about Senator Sessions' record and how we believe that it is disqualifying as to his nomination for Attorney General.
And the protests and the numbers of people gathering around the country to object to the policies of President Trump are getting bigger and bigger the more that he bullies and bullies. This isn't going to work. And so, Mr. President, I’m going to speak to Senator Sessions’ record.