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Morning Reads: McConnell Silences Elizabeth Warren for Reading King Letter; Construction on DAPL Could Resume Today

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Morning Reads: McConnell Silences Elizabeth Warren in Senate

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reacting to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admonishing her for reading Coretta Scott King's 1986 letter opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions' appointment to the federal court on Tuesday.

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Warren silenced on Senate floor –> Democrats pulled another late-nighter, speaking on the Senate floor in opposition to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got up and began reading from a 1986 letter critical of Sessions written by Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) silenced her, invoking a rarely used rule that prevents any senator from criticizing another senator, Jeff Stein reports for Vox.

“The Senate voted along partisan lines, 49-43, to admonish Warren, effectively barring her from speaking during the remaining debate on Sessions,” reports NBC News. The rebuke had the effect of bringing more attention to Warren’s remarks than they might otherwise have received as Facebook and Twitter erupted with the hashtag #LetLizSpeak and #ShePersisted trending overnight. Shortly after leaving the Senate floor, Warren read King’s entire letter on Facebook Live from a room outside the chamber. The video has already been viewed by over 6 million people.

King’s letter was written in opposition to Sessions becoming a federal judge, and is published in full at The Washington Post. It reads, in part: “Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts…. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”

Dakota Access Pipeline construction may resume today –> Crews are standing by to begin work, 24 hours after the Army Corps of Engineers delivered a letter to Congress announcing its intention to grant a permit to allow the pipeline to cross the Missouri River. The letter stated that the Corps would waive a standard 14-day waiting period after notifying Congress. President Donald Trump issued an executive order last month to resume construction on the pipeline, and the company behind it, Energy Transfer Partners, has had crews on hand, waiting in hotels to begin construction. “The decision sets the stage for a tense showdown at the site of the drilling, where indigenous and environmental activists have been camped for nearly a year,” Julia Carrie Wong and Sam Levin report for The Guardian.

Meanwhile, in a victory for those opposing the pipeline, Seattle’s City Council voted unanimously to stop doing business with Wells Fargo, a bank that has helped fund the Dakota Access Pipeline. The bank had handled $3 billion for the city over the last year.

Judges skeptical of the Muslim ban –> A three judge panel heard testimony from the Justice Department yesterday in defense of the president’s Muslim immigration ban. The judges seemed unconvinced of the DOJ’s lawyers’ arguments — so much so that at one point a lawyer acknowledged it, saying “I’m not sure I’m convincing the court.” Adam Liptak reports for The New York Times that “the appeals court judges sometimes seemed taken aback by the assertiveness of the administration’s position, which in places came close to saying the court was without power to make judgments about Mr. Trump’s actions.” Regardless of how the 9th Circuit rules, the future of the ban is likely to be determined by the US Supreme Court.

A ‘Win-Win’ for Trump? Ryan Lizza reports for The New Yorker that, in the event of a terrorist attack, Trump will be in a position to consolidate power and defend his ban. Matt Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center, told Lizza, “We can assume there will be another terrorist attack in the US. If the executive order is in place, he will point to the attack as support for the executive order and the need to expand it to other countries with bad dudes (Muslims). If the executive order has been struck down, Trump will blame judges and Democrats for the attack.”

DeVos confirmed –> “With a historic tie-breaking vote by the vice president, Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as secretary of education on Tuesday in the closest Senate vote so far for one of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees,” The Guardian reports. Two Republican senators joined all Democrats in voting against DeVos, resulting in a 50-50 vote. It marks the first time in US history that a vice president has had to cast a tie-breaking vote on a presidential nomination. “It is a sad day for American public education when a person who has repeatedly expressed contempt for public schools is confirmed as secretary of Education,” education advocate Diane Ravitch writes.

Pruitt hit with lawsuit –> The watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy is pushing for the release of thousands of documents that they say will provide further details on Pruitt’s extremely close relationship with the oil and gas industry. “Scott Pruitt has withheld access to thousands of emails with businesses or organizations whose activities adversely affect the environment and other records of vital public interest for the past two years,” Robert Nelon, a lawyer for CMD, told ThinkProgress. “His inaction denies the public ‘prompt and reasonable’ access to public documents and violates Oklahoma’s Open Records Act.”

Goodbye, Election Assistance Commission? –> “In a little-noticed 6-3 vote today, the House Administration Committee voted along party lines to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which helps states run elections and is the only federal agency charged with making sure voting machines can’t be hacked,” Ari Berman wrote yesterday for The Nation. “The EAC was created after the disastrous 2000 election in Florida as part of the Help America Vote Act to rectify problems like butterfly ballots and hanging chads. (Republicans have tried to kill the agency for years.) The committee also voted to eliminate the public-financing system for presidential elections dating back to the 1970s.” The move was widely denounced by good-government groups. The full House will now have to vote on the legislation.

It’s not all bad –> “Even though solar power still provides just a fraction of America’s electricity — about 1.3 percent — the industry now employs more than 260,000 people, according to a new survey from the nonprofit Solar Foundation,” Brad Plumer reports for Vox. “And it’s growing fast: Last year, the solar industry accounted for one of every 50 new jobs nationwide.” There are now more solar jobs than coal jobs in the US.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Theresa Riley.



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