Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Sen. Brown reads Coretta Scott King letter on Senate floor

Sen. Warren had been silenced for doing so

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) today read on the Senate floor the same letter from Coretta Scott King that got U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) silenced one day earlier.

The letter, written in 1986, criticized Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) when he was a nominee for a federal judgeship.

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Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio

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Mr. Sessions is now President Trump’s nominee for attorney general. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. Ky.) sought to shield Mr. Sessions from Mrs. King’s harsh indictment using a rule that prohibits one senator from impugning the honor of another senator.

The vote Tuesday to silence Ms. Warren was along party lines with 49 Republicans, including Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, voting yes.

No one objected when Mr. Brown read the letter. There also was no objection when U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D., New Mexico) read the letter on the Senate floor.

Mr. Brown started by saying, ”It’s a sad day for democracy, Mr. President, when the words of Coretta Scott King are not allowed on the floor of the United States Senate.” Mrs. King was the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. Brown has already said he would vote against Mr. Sessions, citing Mr. Sessions’ record on civil rights, voting rights and his oppositions to efforts to improve police-community relations.

Mr. Portman’s office today issued a statement calling for civility on both sides.

“Rob believes that both parties need to bring more civility to this process with a greater focus on the policy proposals that each nominee has outlined during confirmation process,” said spokesman Emily Benavides.

The King letter said that Mr. Sessions, who was then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, had used the "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."

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058 or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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