Floor Statement by Senator Mark Pryor A House Divided

Senator Mark Pryor today made the following statement on the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to work together on a debt ceiling solution. His statement is below:

Our greatest Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, in his drive to end slavery, said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  With these few words, Lincoln is calling to us through the echoing halls of history.  He is calling for us to put aside our differences and to become unified into one people, one nation, one common purpose. 

Mr. Lincoln recognized that the issue of slavery was tearing this great nation apart and that it could not survive half slave and half free.  Slavery was the great unfinished business of our founders.  The institution of slavery was so ingrained in the infant country’s past and future that even Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin could not disentangle it.   Madam President, I am not trying to equate carrying too much debt with slavery, please understand that, but the truth remains.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.

This house, this nation, this republic, is divided against itself.  Our founders called their effort at establishing a new nation “a great experiment” – and it has been.  Nothing like it had ever been tried and America has been the unequaled success in all of world history.  Truly, we are the envy of the world.  We began as thirteen weak and barely united states but quickly became the strongest country in the western hemisphere.  About seventy years after we adopted the Constitution, we survived a deadly civil war.  All the while we grew in stature and in favor with other nations.  Our economic power grew rapidly.  American influence grew as we became the agent of democracy and capitalism for the entire world.  Although our military power was slow to develop, we fought on the winning side in two world wars and we grew into an economic, military and cultural super power.

We are a nation of immigrants, of many faiths, of many races and our national call to union is E Pluribus Unum.  Out of many, one.  Out of many states is forged one nation.  Out of many races is forged one people.  Out of many, one. The founding fathers had to balance the agrarian interests of the south and west with the industrial and shipping interests of the north and east.  They balanced small states and big states.  They balanced regions dominated by the frontier with regions dominated by the old world.  They balanced Catholicism and Protestantism and Judaism.  They balanced English culture with German culture with French culture.  Out of many, one.  Had previous generations of leaders not achieved oneness, we would not be, could not be, the great nation we are today.  The Senate was added to the Constitution as a compromise.  Washington, D.C. was placed on the banks of the Potomac as a compromise.  States were added to the union as the result of compromise.  In this sense, America’s ability to find compromise has always been our pathway to greatness.   Our founders established this more perfect union with the clear-eyed knowledge that came from experience that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Division leads to failure.  To make our democracy work, we all must work together.  We must acknowledge that we have differences of opinion and differing points of view, but we must commit to unity.  The floor of the United States Senate is the marketplace for ideas and it is a window into democracy that is a living testimony to the greatness and diversity of our nation.  The floor of the United States Senate should not be a graveyard for ideas or innovation or promise.  Campaigns should stop at the threshold of this chamber.  What happens in this chamber is much greater than any single senator’s political fortunes and it is much more important than a political party’s fate at the next general election.  We have a sacred responsibility to the people through the Constitution and if we orient ourselves to the next presidential election, we are failing in our duty.  The United States Senate, at its core, by its nature, is where decisions get made.  We have our ideological battles here, that is certain, but this is where consensus should be achieved.  The Senate should fuel the engine that propels us to a better future, not stall that engine.

All Americans should fully participate in our government.  We should register to vote and serve on the jury.  We must volunteer in the schools and pay our taxes.  We must teach our children about our country, their country, and prepare them for their time to lead.  We must tell them that our system of government is the best that man ever devised and that it works.  It works very well if we allow it to work.

This moment in history is a day where we can show our children, as well as our founding fathers, that this is no longer a house divided.  We can show the world that our parents instilled in us the value of E Pluribus Unum.  America’s best days lay ahead if we are mutually committed to that future.  It is, however, not possible unless we set aside our differences and work together for that common goal.  My fellow senators, please heed the words of Abraham Lincoln and understand that there is truth of what he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”