King Delivers First Senate Floor Speech

Senator Angus King, a Maine independent, gives a history lesson and calls for compromise in first Senate floor speech.
Senator Angus King, a Maine independent, gives a history lesson and calls for compromise in first Senate floor speech.

By Edward Donga
BU News Service

WASHINGTON – Amid contentious debate over a proposal to impose sales taxes on online purchases, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, took to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to deliver his maiden speech — a tradition in which new senators typically outline their hopes for their legislative careers, as well as a vision for the country.

During the address – King’s first major speech since being sworn in as a senator in early January — he focused on the historic conflict between citizens and government over the struggle for power.

“What I think is amazing is that the arguments — the words themselves, the rhetoric — always seem to be the same,” said King, a former two-term independent governor who is now one of two party independents in the 100-member Senate.

King, who caucuses with the Democrats, won the seat in November after a campaign in which he decried the current gridlock on Capitol Hill – and vowed to play a role in fixing it.

During the speech, King quoted at length from historical figures ranging from James Madison – writing in the Federalist Papers – to Mark Twain as he highlighted how conflict between government and the rank-and-file has been a recurring theme throughout U.S. history.

He emphasized, however, that the key to overcoming the tension between rival factions is compromise.

“The great accomplishments of this government have rarely been victories for one side or the other,” King said. “They were based on hard-fought battles and grudging compromise…I hope in a small way to contribute to this.”

King explained that often a balance must be struck between the federal government and the states in order to obtain the best outcome, and cited recent events in the wake of the Boston bombings as an example of the two sides coming together in the best interests of the citizenry.

As he offered advice on what he and his Senate colleagues must do to deal with the issues facing them today, King reached back at the end of his speech for a quote from President Abraham Lincoln – delivered in an address to Congress during the Civil War.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion,” King quoted Lincoln as saying. “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

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