Elizabeth Warren Was Silenced for Criticizing a Senator. But the Senate Is Not Always So Civil

Feb 08, 2017

As the "world's greatest deliberative body," the U.S. Senate prides itself on civility. And it was one of the rules designed to promote that civility that was used to formally silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren Tuesday.

But the Senate is not always so civil.

In remarks on attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, Warren was accused of running afoul of Rule 19, which was added to the upper chamber's parliamentary rules in 1902 after a brawl literally broke out on the Senate floor. That rule bars Senators from "impugning the motives and conduct" for their Senate colleagues.

That rule has not always been invoked in the past, however, and at times Senators have shown themselves more than willing to be a little uncivil.

Here's a quick look at four other times the U.S. Senate was a little rough around the edges.

The time the Senate Majority Leader called other senators 'puppets'

In December of 2007, Reid, then the majority leader, argued that Republican Senators were "puppets" of President George W. Bush.

"He is the man who is pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate," Reid said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. "That is too bad for the country."

The time a Senator called the other party's leader 'cancerous'

In May of 2016, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton referred to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's leadership as "cancerous."

"I'm forced to listen to the bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings of the minority leader," Cotton said on the Senate floor. "Normally, like every other American, I ignore them. I can't ignore them today... When was the last time the minority leader read a bill? It was probably an electricity bill... This institution will be cursed less with his cancerous leadership."

The time a Senator called his own party leader a liar

In July of 2015, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of lying to his colleagues.

"What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what [McConnell] told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie," Cruz said on the floor of the Senate. "We know now that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false. That has consequences for how this body operates."

The time the Vice President told a Senator to 'go f--k yourself'

In June of 2004, then-Vice President Dick Cheney was in the Senate for a class photo. According to several accounts, he scolded Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy for criticizing his ties to defense contractor Halliburton, and things escalated.

"In response to Cheney, Leahy reminded Cheney that the vice president had once accused him of being a bad Catholic, to which Cheney replied either 'f--k off' or 'go f--k yourself,'" CNN reported at the time.

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