The official rebuke that silenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday during debate over confirming Jeff Sessions as attorney general created some blowback for Senate Republicans Wednesday, but Idaho Sen. Jim Risch was resolute.
The parliamentary skirmish ultimately did not hurt Sessions, who was confirmed Wednesday evening on a 52-47, mostly-party line vote.
If you don’t have rules, you have anarchy.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch
The night before, Risch rose on the floor to support an obscure move that silenced Warren on grounds that she was violating a rule barring senators from speaking negatively about colleagues on the floor.
Warren was attempting to read from a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986 objecting to Sessions’ then-nomination for federal judge. The Senate rejected that nomination.
Warren was blocked from reading the letter when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited Senate Rule 19. McConnell’s comment that Warren had been warned but “nevertheless, she persisted,” was picked up as a rallying cry for women’s activism on social media Wednesday.
And Warren, who was shut down from speaking only on the Senate floor, appeared extensively in media reports to criticize her censure and highlight the King letter.
Risch got involved Tuesday after Warren was cut off. Other Democrats sought unanimous consent to enter the letter into the Senate record and Risch rose to object.
“We have rules around here, and the rules are very clear that you don’t impugn another Senator,” Risch said. “You can’t do that in your words and you can’t do it with writings.”
Risch defended his actions in an interview Wednesday with Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review.
“It doesn’t matter who wrote it — the rules are the rules,” Risch said. “If you don’t have rules, you have anarchy.”
The letter was not entered into the record Tuesday, but several Democratic senators read from it when debate resumed Wednesday.