Republicans tried to shut Democrats up — but they came back even louder.


We expected Jeff Sessions to be confirmed as attorney general a little earlier today, but the vote was pushed back until this evening. In the meantime, there were some fireworks on Capitol Hill as Democrats made a last push in their uphill battle to stop the confirmation of the controversial nominee. Last night, Democrats repeated their Monday night serial-speech efforts to stop the confirmation of Betsy DeVos. But this time, as Senate Democrats made their point on Sessions' much-more-likely confirmation, they were quite literally shut up by their Republican counterparts.

"Nevertheless, she persisted": As Democrats #HeldTheFloor Tuesday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) began to read a letter sent by Coretta Scott King to the Senate in 1986. The wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — and a civil rights activist in her own right — used her public profile to call attention to Sessions, who was then under consideration for a federal judgeship. "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters," King wrote. (Then-segregationist and chair of the judiciary committee, Strom Thurmond, never allowed the letter entered into the Congressional record.) As Warren read the letter on the Senate floor, she was interrupted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell said Warren, by reading a letter with a negative view of the nominee, had "impugned the motives and conduct of Sessions." Using a little-known Senate rule, McConnell and Republicans barred Warren from saying anything else in the debate over Sessions confirmation.

The degree to which this felt like "us vs. them" was notable, and even more tense than the Senate boycotts and tirades over the past few weeks. After Warren was censured, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse made pains to point out that "derogatory" facts, if relevant to a confirmation, must be presented. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio expressed worry that the Senate, which he described as the final bastion of reasoned debate in America, was nearing an inability to function.

If anything, McConnell's move to silence Warren only emboldened her. Democrats rushed to the aid of their comrade, speaking out in dire terms against the GOP. Some of the Democrats read King's letter in full on the Senate floor, only to find they would not be sanctioned by Republicans. Sen. Bernie Sanders read King's letter, adding it was "incomprehensible" to him that her words could not be read by Warren on the Senate floor. Social media exploded with calls to #LetLizSpeak, with many co-opting McConnell's statement that "nevertheless, she persisted" to criticize Sessions. Warren later read King's letter on Facebook Live. If Republicans hoped to effectively quiet Warren, they missed the mark.

Later Wednesday, Warren appeared on The View to speak out against her censure. "They've got the votes," she said. "That doesn't mean we give up. It does not mean we lay down to die."

It's worth mentioning that, even if Sessions is confirmed, Democrats will keep fighting against him. Democrats and liberal groups are planning continued opposition to Sessions beyond his confirmation fight. One tactic: Scrutinizing Sessions and his policies through the budget process to question how federal funds are spent by the department. Aaron Morrison of Mic has the inside story. The grassroots support for this opposition could be substantial. A petition was delivered to Congress on Wednesday bearing signatures from 1 million people opposing Session's confirmation.  

Other looming confirmation votes: Rep. Tom Price and Steven Mnuchin will be up for confirmation votes later this week. Democrats show no signs of stopping their all-out blitz to delay these confirmations, meaning nominees like Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency) and Mick Mulvaney (Office of Management and Budget) could be delayed until the beginning of next week or later. Like or loathe the Democratic tactics, they have been effective: Trump has fewer confirmed Cabinet nominees than any other modern president at this point in their term.

This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. Welcome to the political newsletter that Mitch McConnell said once impugned itself. Want to receive this as a daily email in your inbox? Subscribe here.


•  Today: Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as attorney general. 

•  More on DeVos: What the Alabama senator's confirmation will mean for the American justice system. 

•  More: What's next on other key confirmation votes.

•  Even more: A federal court seemed to move toward calling Trump's immigration ban a "Muslim ban." 

•  Yes, more: The Senate has really broken down. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz had a spirited battle of ideas about the future of American health care.

•  Trump's agenda today: The president has a thin public schedule today. He's speaking at the Major Cities Chiefs Association winter conference, followed by intelligence and Congressional strategy sessions. 

The latest on the "Muslim ban" 

A ruling is imminent in a case that will determine whether Trump's immigration ban will remain in effect nationwide. The Friday night decision to put the ban on hold was argued before a federal appeals court on Tuesday afternoon. The three-judge panel in California cited comments by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about the order fulfilling Trump's promise of a "Muslim ban" to question whether Trump's action targets Muslims. And the attorney general of Washington state, in arguing the order should remain on hold, said "public statements from the president and his top advisers" demonstrate the intent to target people based on religion.

The court could rule as soon as Wednesday, but a decision is expected later this week or next. As the hearing concluded, one judge said they will pass down a decision "as soon as possible." The ramifications of the decision will be major. If the appeals court upholds the lower ruling to stay Trump's immigration ban, the case will head to the Supreme Court. A 4-4 split there is possible, which would preserve the appeals court ruling.

The present battle will determine whether the ban will remain in effect during the longer legal war to determine whether Trump's order is constitutional. That means this appeals court decision will have consequences for thousands of refugees, immigrants and others passionate about the ban.

News and insight you cannot miss: 

•  The Dakota Access pipeline is going forward. Here's the latest. (Mic)

•  Republicans confirmed Betsy DeVos by one vote. Now, they want to abolish her job. (Mic) And read our full wrap of that vote from yesterday. 

•  In a stunning reversal, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN to say that CNN is not "fake news." Someone tell the president. (Mic)

•  The most bizarre and revealing leaks out of a very leaky White House, compiled by the Huffington Post

• House Republicans have moved to kill the Election Assistance Commission. The agency is the body that has a role in making sure elections are fair, including ensuring machines are not hacked — the only agency with that responsibility. (The Nation)

• Internally, the GOP is worried there may be blood over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Reports show they are trying to determine what steps they need to take to prevent their town halls and office from violence. (Politico)

• The left and the right have very different views on who won the Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz debate over the future of health insurance. (Mic)

• The left and the right have very different views on who won the Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz debate over the future of health insurance. (Mic)

• Democrats are headed to Baltimore Wednesday to do some soul-searching. (Washington Post)

• The left and the right have very different views on who won the Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz debate over the future of health insurance. (Mic)