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Muzzling Warren rightly backfires on McConnell

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reacts to being rebuked

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reacts to being rebuked by the Senate leadership and accused of impugning a fellow senator, Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Warren was barred from saying anything more on the Senate floor about Sessions after she quoted from an old letter written by Coretta Scott King about Sessions. Credit: AP

‘Nevertheless, she persisted.” The phrase has already given birth to a merchandise line cheekily celebrating language likely to rally women into political action. Perhaps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should think twice about silencing his colleagues.

Late Monday, with Democrats holding the Senate floor in their battle against Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general, Sen. Elizabeth Warren got a scolding. She was quoting past criticism of her esteemed colleague from Alabama by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. She then read from a 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King that accused Sessions of working “to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.” It was all fair game.

Yet, McConnell invoked a little-used Senate rule meant to preserve decorum and stop personal attacks on senators — a rule not used in 2015, when Sen. Ted Cruz accused McConnell of lying. It was also not used yesterday, when some of Warren’s male colleagues read from the letter. Perhaps McConnell knew by then that he won the battle but lost the war.

McConnell’s phrasing turned slogan came as he tried to explain that he took the extraordinary step of silencing Warren because she had been warned and notified.

The incident comes after Donald Trump’s “Nasty Woman” comment about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign that sparked the sale of another line of profitable merchandise. Trump’s description of women as sex objects also inspired all those pink pussycat hats worn in rallies across the nation the day after his inauguration.

Women will not sit down and shut up anymore.

— The editorial board