Under the Senate’s Rule 19, senators are not allowed to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator."
Warren offered a blistering speech against Sessions's nomination, arguing he wouldn’t stand up to Trump’s “campaign of bigotry.”
“He made derogatory and racist comments that should have no place in our justice system,” she said. “To put Sen. Sessions in charge of the Department of Justice is an insult to African-Americans.”
Warren quoted a 1986 speech from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who referred to Sessions as a “throwback to a shameful era” and a “disgrace” to the Justice Department.
Daines — who at times was repeating words being said to him by GOP Senate floor staff — initially interrupted Warren to warn her that she was on the brink of violating the rule.
McConnell also specifically pointed to Warren quoting a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., as evidence that she had broken the rules.
Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986, during Sessions's failed confirmation hearing for a federal judgeship, that he “had used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens" as a U.S. attorney in Alabama.
When Warren said she was "surprised" by McConnell's actions and asked to continue, the Republican objected and was backed up by Daines, effectively ending Warren's speech.
Warren rejected McConnell's move, tweeting to her millions of followers that she "will not be silent while the Republicans rubber stamp an AG who will never stand up to the @POTUS when he breaks the law."
Democrats jumped on the connection to King, with some saying that the GOP was seeking to silence a civil rights icon. Republicans countered that they were trying to keep floor debate civil and condemned Warren for attacking Sessions in such strong terms.
Tonight @SenateMajLdr silenced Mrs King's voice on the Sen floor - & millions who are afraid & appalled by what's happening in our country.— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 8, 2017
Democrats also argued that Republicans were selectively enforcing the rule. They noted Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzWith no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder Trump defends several unsubstantiated claims in interview Budowsky: Trump’s war against truth MORE (R-Texas) was not formally found to have violated the rules when he accused McConnell of being a "liar" from the Senate floor.
Daines — at the prodding of Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDem senator accuses Trump of 'dangerous tilt towards authoritarianism' Overnight Regulation: Dems punch back in fight over CEO pay rule Bernie Sanders, Menendez 'troubled' by delay of CEO pay rule MORE (D-Ore.) — noted that just because Warren broke the rules doesn't mean she was being untruthful.
Updated at 10:35 p.m.