Coretta Scott King’s Letter Opposing Sessions’s 1986 Federal Nomination

Since the Senate Majority Leader has closed down “the greatest deliberative body in the world” by invoking Rule XIX against Senator Elizabeth Warren, I take the opportunity to share what Mitch McConnell was so afraid to have heard.

A quote:

“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.”

Here’s the cover letter:

Full document here:

Update, 2/8 11am Pacific: Apparently, Rule XIX has not been invoked since 1979; and apparently, it is relevant to Senator McConnell when a female senator quotes the letter, and not when a male senator quotes it.

25 thoughts on “Coretta Scott King’s Letter Opposing Sessions’s 1986 Federal Nomination

  1. Manfred

    Mitch McConnell did not “shut down” Elizabeth Warren. He invoked Rule 19 (2) of the Senate, and put it to a vote. Warren lost the vote. Tough.

    For anybody interested, Rule 19 is here:

    In addition, this letter by Coretta King is not without controversy. There are African Americans actually supporting Jeff Sessions in this instance, because Sessions was acting on a complaint *filed* by African Americans. So… details matter.

  2. Ray LaPan-Love

    I don’t intend here to be taken as a Trump supporter, because I am not, but it is folly to think that Mitch McConnell “was so afraid to have heard”… what he surely knew would be heard… regardless. It seems much more likely that the Republicans ‘don’t like the taste of their own obstructionist-medicine’, and…they just can’t stand the sound of Warren’s voice. Similarly, though I’m a fairly progressive person, I have reached a point where I fast-forward through most everything Warren says, even though I agree with most of it. So it must be slow torture for those who ‘disagree’ with Warren… to be stuck listening to her go on and on about what is typically just predictable gain-speak, and always dripping of self-righteous indignation.

  3. Gail Nagle

    I love listening to the sound of Elizabeth Warren’s voice. It is the sound of rational thought and a determination to work for the good of all. Thank you for posting this letter by Corretta Scott King. How is it possible that we have fallen so far from grace in so short a time?

    1. Ray LaPan-Love

      Perhaps I hear some hypocrisy in the voice of all democrats these days, which is amplified by indignation, and by a lack of remorseful introspection. The democrats were integral to the removal of Glass/Steagall after-all, and there is also the Telecommunications Act of 1996. But most of all, the democrats betrayed the labor movement:

      ” After Humphrey’s loss to Nixon, Democrats formed the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection, also known as the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which sought to heal and restructure the party. With the help of strategist Fred Dutton, Democrats forged a new coalition. By quietly cutting back the influence of unions, Dutton sought to eject the white working class from the Democratic Party, which he saw as “a major redoubt of traditional Americanism and of the antinegro, antiyouth vote.” The future, he argued, lay in a coalition of African Americans, feminists, and affluent, young, college-educated whites.”

      So…I don’t buy the “good for all” claim.


  4. Joseph

    Her first warning from the chair came as she was quoting the words of Senator Ted Kennedy spoken on the same floor of the Senate in 1986 during the hearings on Sessions’ federal judge nomination.

    Ted Kennedy says it, okay. Elizabeth Warren quotes those very same words, unbecoming.

    Mitch McConnell said “Nevertheless, she persisted” and went on to quote Coretta Scott King.

    McConnell has created the new marching words for women’s rights:

    Nevertheless, she persisted.

  5. Joseph

    “So it must be slow torture for those who ‘disagree’ with Warren… to be stuck listening to her go on and on about what is typically just predictable gain-speak, and always dripping of self-righteous indignation.”

    Congratulations. You have just echoed the excuse that every abuser of women makes.

    “Bit.h made me hit her. She wouldn’t shut up.”

    1. Ray LaPan-Love

      So says someone who assumes that I would not have the same opinion of a man using the same context, in the same circumstances. Congratulations to you too then, on a perfect mix of oversimplifications built on a weak foundation of assumptions.

    2. Joseph

      “So says someone who assumes that I would not have the same opinion of a man using the same context.”

      Funny, but it’s always a woman who gets punched “using the same context.” For example Senator Ted Cruz in 2015 directly called Mitch McConnell a “liar” in a speech on the same floor of the Senate.

      Did Mitch McConnell punch Ted? I think you know the answer. “McConnell spokesman Don Stewart declined to comment on Cruz’s remarks.” The little coward.

      What McConnell did to Elizabeth Warren was simply misogynist abuse.

  6. Ray LaPan-Love

    Was Cruz part of a party-wide effort to stall the Senate? Was Cruz warned not to impugn the character of a fellow Senator under the threat of a Title 19 rebuke? Had conformation hearings been dragging on day after day, and thereby bringing about an unusual attempt to silence anyone who could be silenced?

    In other words, are you merely resorting to a false equivalency so as to reach a desired conclusion?

  7. baffling

    “Was Cruz warned not to impugn the character of a fellow Senator under the threat of a Title 19 rebuke?”
    why was he not warned? is that not what “liar” is characterizing? do we assign warnings based on party affiliation? appears that is the mcconnell approach.

    1. Ray LaPan-Love

      I suspect that Cruz was not warned because there was not prior warning due to the fact that the Title 19 offence was not part of stalling effort, or at least not one that was anticipated and thereby prepared for. The circumstance s were quite different which is why I mention a ‘false equivalency’.

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        Ray LaPan-Love: Just wondering — do you concede that Rule XIX has not been invoked since 1979? A germane question would be why were the male senators who subsequently quoted the same letter not “warned” as Senator Warren was. I do not expect a reasonable answer, obviously.

        1. anon2

          Menzie: just wondering — what letter are you talking about? The Ted Kennedy letter or the Coretta Scott King letter? Warren was forced to stand down FOR quoting Kennedy’s letter saying Sessions is “…a disgrace to the Justice Department”. This was the Rule XIX violation. At the time Rule XIX was enforced, and she was told to shut up, she was trying to quote from the King letter but the King letter is not why she was shut down. The Kennedy letter is the relevant letter, and I doubt it’s disparaging parts have been read or quoted on the floor of the Senate since Sessions became a Senator.

          It takes a special person, someone of Warren’s or Kennedy’s ilk, to traffic in the sewer of character assassination and feel comfortable about it. So, I’m sure Ted Kennedy, that great champion of women, would have supported Warren’s smearing a decent Republican Senator. Shucks, ole Ted probably would have drowned her in praise.

          1. Menzie Chinn Post author

            anon2: From NYT:

            But when Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, sought clarification, he was informed that while a warning was issued over the letter from Mr. Kennedy, the ruling itself hinged on Mrs. King’s letter. That judgment came from Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, who had taken over as the presiding officer.

            Please keep on trying to find an excuse for selective enforcement.

          2. baffling

            considering the ilk that does get spewed out of the senate on occasion, the idea of “decorum” in the senate chamber is a joke. these decorum rules are really meant to help maintain the “old boy network” that still exists in the chamber to this day. and those that are not part of the old boy network, or who want to change it, are silenced in this way. this type of stifling of dissent occurs throughout corporate america today.

            and if stalling is a violation of decorum, what about the nearly year long stall of the obama nomination for the supreme court? that is certainly a violation of decorum.

          3. anon2

            Menzie — the presiding officer who ruled that Warren had violated Rule XIX and who told her to stand down was Senator Steve Daines (Montana), not Sen. Rounds. In an interview with CNN, Senator Daines said Sen Warren crossed the line, re: Rule XIX, when she quoted from Ted Kennedy’s letter calling Session disgraceful and shameful. Warren’s attempt to quote from the King letter was more fuel on her ‘slander a sitting Senator’ fire–the tipping point if you like– but it was her earlier despicable quotes from the despicable Ted Kennedy that led to her being told to shut up. This explains why no male Senators who subsequently quoted from CSK’s letter were told to stand down….and why (to my knowledge) no Senators, male of otherwise, subsequently quote quoted from Ted Kennedy’s letter.

  8. Joseph

    Funny, I’ve read Rule 19 and there is absolutely nothing in there about “stalling” being a violation of the Senate rules. In fact “stalling” is a long standing and carefully preserved tradition in the Senate. Surely you have heard of the “filibuster.” You can look it up if you are unfamiliar with the term.

    By the way, are you talking about the same Ted Cruz who “stalled”, holding the floor for 21 straight hours while he read from “Green Eggs and Ham” in an attempt to shut down the entire U.S. government? Apparently that was “becoming” behavior in contrast to Warren’s unbecoming.

  9. Ray LaPan-Love

    Yes, I concede that the use of Rule 19 was very unusual.

    The male Senators ‘only’ read the letter from C. King, and did not impugn to the degree that Warren did (Warren had also quoted Ted Kennedy). Plus, it is very likely that the Republicans realized that their rebuke of Warren had back-fired and so they were reluctant to exacerbate their previous mistake. It is also very likely that the Democrats seized an opportunity to make hay out of the fact that a woman was rebuked in ‘similar’ circumstances to those with men not being rebuked.

    And yes, it is obvious that you have some difficulty being objective as shown in this last comment, and in my initial comment on this board. But of course you are human.

    1. anon2

      Ray LaPan-Love: You are correct. According to the presiding officer of the Senate–Sen. Steve Daines–who ruled Warren had violated Rule XIX and who told her to shut up and sit down, it was Warren quoting Kennedy’s shameful letter that set in motion the decision to invoke Rule XIX. (I agree Rule XIX is unusual and, in my opinion, it should be abolished in the name of free speech. I bet Milo would agree too…..even tho many liberals, especially on the college campus, think it okay when his free speech rights are violated.)

      1. Ray LaPan-Love


        Thanks for the assist.

        And yes, freedom of speech must be allowed regardless, otherwise, where to draw the line just becomes a subjective decision that is impossible to make fairly.

  10. Ray LaPan-Love


    I did not intend to suggest that stalling is prerequisite for invoking Rule 19. Instead, it seems very likely that the Republicans, after days and days of stalling by the Democrats, were searching for some way to contend with obstructions, and they then anticipated that Warren would impugn Sessions. It is after-all the same indignant and accusatory rhetoric that makes her popular with some…that makes her equally unpopular with others. But this predictable behavior is not a gender-related concern.

    However, maybe other female Congress persons will be treated unfairly in the future, and then your anecdotal inanity will gain some statistical support?

  11. Ray LaPan-Love


    But more still equals more, does it not?

    Plus, there is the issue of whether the Republicans are insane in accordance with Einstein’s theory of insanity.

    Then too, going back to your post, it is very, very, unlikely that the Republicans would not have known that others would read C. King’s letter, the Democrats were in fact taking turns at using up one hour time slots into the following day, and it isn’t like they were not just repeating themselves almost endlessly.

  12. Joseph

    Ray LaPan-Love: “it is obvious that you have some difficulty being objective.”

    Ah, in contrast to your objective observation that “they just can’t stand the sound of Warren’s voice.” And you similarly, as you said. Quite objective.

    And then your objective observation that Warren was “stalling” in a way that is worse than any other person “stalling” even though stalling has nothing to do with Rule 19. In fact, if you read Rule 22 you will understand that “stalling” is codified such that there are permitted 30 hours of debate after invoking cloture. Warren and other Senators were exercising their right to 30 hours of debate according to the rules. Apparently you objectively object to following the rules.

    And finally you objectively pronounce that Warren “impugned” to a higher degree, whatever the heck that means objectively, than anyone else by reading words from a speech given by Senator Ted Kennedy on the same floor of the Senate.

    Please continue with your “objective” observations. They are fascinating and amusing. That’s my subjective opinion, in case you are wondering.

  13. Ray LaPan-Love



    (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts: Contrasted with subjective.
    “historians try to be objective and impartial”

    You say: “Ah, in contrast to your objective observation that “they just can’t stand the sound of Warren’s voice.” Which was made objective by my explaining that I agree with most of what she says, and that I am aligned with her politically. So, do you see why you need to read the definition of ‘objective’?

    And I’ve already explained why the premise of your third paragraph is nothing more than a reading comprehension shortcoming. (Notice that Menzie did not bring up this contention in regards to stalling).

    Then, yes, she “impugned to a higher degree” by actually quoting Ted Kennedy in addition to the King quote that was quoted by the males. So, 1 + 1 = 2, and yes, two is “higher” than one, yet maybe you know that and are simply not reading well…again.

    But no, I was not wondering, and yes…on the “amusing” part, and I’m glad that you find this fascinating, although I must admit that I’ve never understood submissive types?

Comments are closed.