The United States Senate is one chamber of the federal government’s legislative branch, consisting of one hundred members – two senators from each state – who serve six-year overlapping terms. At the moment, the Republicans hold the majority with 51 senators against 46 Democratic senators; the remaining three are independent or a vacant positions.
A few days ago, a Democratic Senator was formally silenced by the majority of Republicans. The incident occurred during speech-marathons that the Democrats hold in order to slow down the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. They cannot stop the nomination since the Republicans have the majority.
Sessions is an Alabama senator that missed the nomination for an important judicial position in 1986 because of racist comments he made. During the process of his nomination back then, Coretta Scott King (widow of Martin Luther King) wrote a letter to the senate asking them to withhold the nomination because he uses his office to intimidate and scare older, black voters.
A few days ago, Democratic senator Warren wanted to read that letter from Coretta Scott King when she was accused of violating rule 19. That rule says that senators cannot offend each other. As she read on, the senate President who is Republican, made the senate vote on whether she could continue reading or not. By their majority, they forbade Warren from speaking untill Sessions is nominated as Attorney General.
The current imbalances in the U.S. senate reached a new low when this incident occurred. It seems harmful for rational debate that Republican senators can just ‘shut up’ democrats with their majority. It should be noted that this can only happen when a rule is being broken.