Rule 19 is an interesting thing. It was created as a result of the senior Senator from South Carolina saying that the junior Senator from South Carolina had fallen prey to "treacherous and improper influences", during a debate over whether or not to annex the Philippines, in 1902. This led to an all out brawl on the Senate floor, when the junior Senator called the accusations a "willful, malicious, and deliberate lie.” Apparently, the junior Senator took a swing at the senior Senator and missed, and connected with a colleague... the rest, as they say, is history.
The last time it was invoked, in 1979, was when Republican Senator Lowell Wieker called Republican Senator John Heinz “an idiot and devious”. Rather than fisticuffs erupting on the Senate floor, then Senate Majority Leader, Robert Byrd got both men to apologize to each other, shake hands, and make nice.
In other words, actually calling names, saying something specious, telling outright lies, and in doing so, doing irrefutable harm to someone’s reputation.
Last night, during the debate on the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the Senator from the state of South Carolina and nominee for Attorney General of the United States of America, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who invoked Rule XIX to silence her in the debate, censured Senator Elizabeth Warren. At the time, she was reading into the Senate record a letter that had been written in 1989 by Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
The letter in question, written in 1989, was a statement by Mrs. King, asking the Senate to think long and hard about approving then, State Attorney Sessions for a seat on the Federal bench. That his brand of justice was not the kind of justice that was good for the country.
Now, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is the Attorney General of this great nation. The phrase BOHICA* comes to mind. And I can’t help but wonder which of the civil rights that he is going to start to dismantle first.
And this all starts with an obscure rule….
*BOHICA – Bend Over Here It Comes Again