Read the 1986 Coretta Scott King Letter That Led to Senate Rebuke of Elizabeth Warren

MLK's widow wrote to Senate opposing Jeff Sessions' confirmation as a judge.

ByVeronica Stracqualursi
February 08, 2017, 3:09 PM

— -- In denouncing the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tuesday quoted on the Senate floor from a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 when she urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to deny Session's confirmation as a federal judge.

Sessions was then a U.S. attorney from Mobile, Alabama, whom Republican President Ronald Reagan nominated for U.S. District judge for the Southern District of Alabama. The GOP-controlled committee ultimately blocked his nomination by a 10-8 vote.

"Based on his record, I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made everywhere toward fulfilling my husband's dream that he envisioned over twenty years ago," King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a civil rights leader herself, wrote.

In the letter, King, who died in 2006, also wrote that if Sessions were confirmed, he would be "given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods."

Sessions has been criticized for decades-old allegations that he made racist remarks as a federal prosecutor in his home state.

Even then, however, he insisted that he harbored no racial bias and disputed the allegations made against him during hearings on his nomination to be a federal judge.

But quoting King’s letter from the floor Tuesday night, Warren said, "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge."

It was that line that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quoted before calling Warren "to order under the provisions of rule XIX," arguing that she had "impugned the motives and conduct" of Sessions.

Warren fired back, "I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate. I ask leave of the Senate to continue my remarks."

After that, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., the Senate's presiding officer, told his Democratic colleague to "take her seat."

Having been silenced from the Senate floor, Warren took to Facebook Live to read Mrs. King's letter in its entirety without interruption.

Read the letter in full here.

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