Sen. Jim Risch’s “rules are rules” defense of the Senate’s silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a weak attempt to justify the indefensible. Sen. Risch is a law school graduate and has taught criminal law. He certainly knows that laws and rules are subject to interpretation and clarification. That is why law schools teach courses in “Conflict of Laws” and spend time on rules of statutory construction and determining legislative intent.
Character and prior acts are crucial factors in determining the fitness of the nominee. Any reading of Rule 19 applying the usual interpretation standards would conclude that it was never intended to bar relevant testimony and history about a candidate for attorney general.
The letter by Coretta Scott King was about Jeff Sessions, the proposed attorney general and his actions years before he became a senator. Barring relevant evidence because the nominee happens to be a senator serves no purpose and may raise interesting First Amendment issues.
That this was a pure political power play by the Republicans is obvious when you recall that in 2015 when Sen. Cruz called Sen. McConnell a liar, no action was taken. Apparently rule 19 applies to Democrats but not Republicans.