HELENA – Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, found himself in the middle of a political firestorm Wednesday, in the wake of gaveling down fellow Sen. Elizabeth Warren for comments she made during the confirmation debate over attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.
Daines, who was chairing the Senate during debate Tuesday evening over the Sessions confirmation, ruled that Warren had violated Senate protocol by “impugning” the reputation of a fellow senator – Sessions, a U.S. senator from Alabama.
“The Senator will take her seat,” he told Warren, thus barring her from commenting further in the debate, which lasted until the Wednesday evening vote on Sessions.
On Wednesday morning, Daines tweeted out a clip of the Senate video that showed the episode, while Warren and fellow Democrats denounced the move and said they would not be silenced in registering their objections to Sessions as attorney general.
Daines told MTN News Wednesday that the Senate is “considered the world’s greatest deliberative body,” and that it should have a civilized debate.
“Sen. Warren was not doing that,” he said. “She impugned another senator and the rules of the Senate do not allow a senator to impugn another senator.”
Warren, an outspoken liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, had put forth a harsh critique of Sessions as attorney general, saying he wouldn’t stand up to President Trump’s “campaign of bigotry” and that putting him in charge of the Justice Department is “an insult to African-Americans.”
Daines, consulting with Senate floor staff, had interrupted Warren to warn her about violating the rule.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., later stood to invoke Rule 19, which forbids impugning a fellow senator, and asked Daines to rule she had violated it – which he did.
Warren appealed the ruling to Daines, saying she was reading from a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., that opposed Sessions becoming a federal judge at the time.
Daines asked if anyone objected; McConnell did, and Daines told Warren she was finished. She appealed the ruling to the full Senate, which upheld Daines on a 49-43 vote.
While Daines defended his actions, his Facebook page filled with comments criticizing him – along with some that supported him.
Warren continued Tuesday and Wednesday to talk about the event to her 1.8 million followers on Twitter, saying that the words of Mrs. King “would not be silenced.”