Sen. Sherrod Brown silenced on Senate floor for stating truth about GOP abuse of power


For the second time in a year, the Republican Senate majority has threatened a senator from the opposing party for stating truths on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

On Sunday evening, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor to try to pass a bill to reopen the government for three days, so Air Force servicemembers in his home state and other public servants can show up for work tomorrow morning. But Republicans didn't like what he had to say and disturbingly threatened to silence him.

Republican senators interrupted Brown to cite the same obscure senate rule Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used almost a year ago to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren as she read a letter from Coretta Scott King to raise concerns about the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States.

This time, the Republican majority sought to cut off Brown from accurately recounting the ways in which the majority leader has shut Democrats out from drafting critical legislation, while welcoming lobbyists in.

Just as with Warren, it was a shocking moment, all too consistent with the authoritarian tone Republicans have set in this era of one-party rule.

Here's how it unfolded:

"We know how this bill's been written," Brown stated in the midst of an impassioned speech calling for Republicans to re-open the government for the sake of Americans for whom a shutdown will be so costly. "The tax bill was written in Sen. McConnell's office by a bunch of tax lawyers. And now this resolution to keep the government open was, again, written down the hall in Sen. McConnell's office," he said.

It is a well documented fact that Republicans gave lobbyists a huge hand in writing the GOP tax bill. Indeed, over 6,000 lobbyists — more than half of all registered lobbyists in the nation's capitol — had a say in the bill. White House legislative director Marc Short even admitted to their outsized role.

Brown went on to protest the extent to which Republicans have left Democrats out of the democratic process. "There's no input from Democrats. This body -- 49 Democrats in this body. We represent more than half the population of this country, yet we were not included in this discussion."

He's right on that point, too. When it came to the GOP tax bill, Senate Democrats received more information about the final details of the bill from lobbyists than from their Republican colleagues. And that's how Republicans have operated all year long.

Brown went on to criticize the Republican leadership's lack of competence to even keep the government running. "They just do this limp along one-month at a time resolution."

At that point, in a shocking moment, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) interrupted Brown to ask the presiding officer to read Senate Rule 19, an obscure rule meant to maintain civility among members on the Senate floor — not meant to curtail free and open debate, and certainly not the facts.

The clear purpose of Tillis' request was to threaten Brown so that he would cease his recounting of the Republican majority's actions.

Clearly taken aback, Brown then asked, "Does that mean that, what I said, that Sen. McConnell didn't have lobbyists in his office writing legislation? Is that what the Rule 19 means and what the presiding officer is now discussing with the parliamentarian or my friend from North Carolina is alleging?"

The response Brown received was chilling: "The chair is merely reminding all senators of the rule."

"Thank you, Mr. President. I'm not impugning anybody's motive. I'm just stating what I read in newspapers and what seems to be fact," Brown said before moving on to another argument.

For the second time in a year, the Republican Senate majority has threatened a senator from the opposing party for stating truths on the floor of the U.S. Senate.