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Default Prevention Act of 2013-- Motion to Proceed--

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KING. Madam President, Winston Churchill once famously observed that Americans will always do the right thing only after they have tried everything else. I think the last 2 weeks demonstrates the wisdom of that observation.

I join my colleagues in congratulating, first, the leaders for putting aside their substantial differences and partisan divide to meet together over the last 2 or 3 days and hammer out an agreement that is not going to be acceptable or exciting to anyone but will put America back together in terms of our government functioning, avoiding the threat of default, and allowing us to move forward with the Nation's problems.

My first congratulation is to Senator Harry Reid and Senator Mitch McConnell for coming together as they have in the last 24 hours.

I also have to acknowledge the leadership of my senior colleague from Maine, Susan Collins. I happened to be presiding when she made her speech last Saturday, and it was really her initiative to stand, take a risk, and say: Let's try to work something out. She outlined the beginning of a framework which was then fleshed out over the last 10 days in discussions among the group we have been talking about.

I was interviewed recently on the radio and somebody asked: Don't you think Senator Collins may be subject to some criticism from some corner or another about her role in all of this? I paused for a minute, and I said: That is what leadership is. It is the willingness to bear criticism and stick your neck out. As my dad used to say, it is like the turtle crossing the road--the only way the turtle can cross the road is to stick his neck out. And that is what we are trying to do on behalf of the American people.

Senator Patty Murray is not on the floor right now, but I am so glad we are entering into a process where she and her colleagues on the Budget Committee will be able to work with Congressman Ryan and try to really solve some of these issues that have been plaguing us so severely. We are doing it, as we should, in the proper process. I am delighted that Senator Murray is now going to step into this role, which is one of the most important we have had in recent years, and we will be able to work toward a resolution.

This is an important and perhaps historic compromise where Congress was really looking into the abyss. Congress was really proving that it could not function and that our system could not function in the divided politics of America today. It now appears that our leaders have pulled us back from that abyss and given us an opportunity--not a guarantee but an opportunity to continue the discussions that started with this terrible shutdown. It will give us the opportunity to try to bring our country together and resolve the problems we face.

It is a shame we have spent so much time doing what I think is the obvious--run the government and pay our bills. Now that we seem to have passed through this moment, we can move forward into the long-term challenges of our budget, the challenges facing our people, and our ability to solve problems so we can prove once again that this wonderful Constitution that has been bequeathed to us can still function, produce results, and govern this country.

Abraham Lincoln said we can't escape history. This morning the Chaplain's prayer talked about being accountable to history, and that, indeed, is what we are doing in this body. I hope that history will judge today as a moment--and the beginning--of a new era of cooperation and civility and problem-solving. This is not about the loss of our differences or the papering over of legitimate arguments of principle but the ability to try to work together, to talk to each other, respect one another, and listen to one another. Those are the essential qualities of leadership that I believe we are seeing demonstrated here today, and I hope it is a beginning.

I congratulate and thank all of my colleagues but especially the two leaders for getting us to this moment.

I yield the floor.


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