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Jeff Sessions was confirmed as U.S. attorney general by the Senate later on Wednesday by a 52-47 vote.
U.S. former presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor Wednesday to read Coretta Scott King's 1986 letter opposing Senator Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship, which their colleague Elizabeth Warren was silenced for reading at the Senate a day earlier.
"The idea that a letter and a statement made by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. ... could not be presented and spoken about here on the floor of the Senate is, to me, incomprehensible," he said before reciting the letter in its entirety.
Sanders also defended Warren, arguing that she brought "forth a statement made by one of the heroines, one of the great leaders of the civil rights movement of the United States of America."
Warren Tuesday quoted King’s letter in which she opposed Sessions' unsuccessful nomination for a position as a federal judge in 1986. In the letter, King said that Sessions used his power as a federal prosecutor to “chill the free exercise of the vote by Black citizens.”
Upon reaching that part of the letter, Warren was interrupted by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell who called for temporarily banning her from speaking because she broke rule 19: “No senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct for motive unworthy or becoming a senator.”
In solidarity with their colleague, several Democratic senators also read the letter ahead of Sanders including Senator Sherrod Brown who said: “It's a sad day for our democracy ... when the words of Coretta Scott King are not allowed on the floor of the U.S. Senate."
Many civil rights and immigration groups also have concerns about Sessions, who was confirmed as attorney general later Wednesday, with the American Civil Liberties Union saying his positions on gay rights, capital punishment, abortion rights and presidential authority in times of war should be examined.
Sessions was a federal prosecutor in 1986 when he became only the second nominee in 50 years to be denied confirmation as a federal judge. This came after allegations that he had made racist remarks, including testimony that he had called an African-American prosecutor "boy."