Dick Durbin

Last updated

Dick Durbin
Richard Durbin official photo.jpg
Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
Preceded by Lindsey Graham
Senate Majority Whip
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
Leader Chuck Schumer
Preceded by John Thune
In office
January 3, 2007 January 3, 2015
Leader Harry Reid
Preceded by Mitch McConnell
Succeeded by John Cornyn
Senate Minority Whip
In office
January 3, 2015 January 20, 2021
Leader Harry Reid
Chuck Schumer
Preceded byJohn Cornyn
Succeeded byJohn Thune
In office
January 3, 2005 January 3, 2007
LeaderHarry Reid
Preceded byHarry Reid
Succeeded by Trent Lott
United States Senator
from Illinois
Assumed office
January 3, 1997
Servingwith Tammy Duckworth
Preceded by Paul Simon
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Illinois's 20th district
In office
January 3, 1983 January 3, 1997
Preceded by Paul Findley
Succeeded by John Shimkus
Personal details
Born
Richard Joseph Durbin

(1944-11-21) November 21, 1944 (age 76)
East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)
Loretta Schaefer
(m. 1967)
Children3
Residence Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Education Georgetown University (BS, JD)
Signature Dick Durbin Signature.svg
Website Senate website

Richard Joseph Durbin (born November 21, 1944) is an American attorney and politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Illinois, a seat he was first elected to in 1996. He has been the Senate Democratic Whip since 2005, the second-highest position in the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate. He is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the 117th Congress [1]

Contents

Durbin was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He graduated from the School of Foreign Service and Georgetown University Law Center. Working in state legal counsel throughout the 1970s, he made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 1978. Durbin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, representing the Springfield-based 20th congressional district. In 1996, he won election to the U.S. Senate. Durbin has served as the Senate Democratic Whip since 2005, and from 2007 to 2015, served as the Senate Majority Whip.

Early life, education and career

Durbin was born in East St. Louis, to an Irish-American father, William Durbin, and a Lithuanian-born mother, Anna (née Kutkin; Lithuanian: Ona Kutkaitė). [2] He graduated from Assumption High School in East St. Louis in 1962. During his high school years he worked at a meatpacking plant. He earned a B.S. from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1966. He was an intern in the office of Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois during his senior year in college. Durbin earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1969 and was admitted to the Illinois bar later that year.

After graduating from law school, Durbin started a law practice in Springfield. He was legal counsel to Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon from 1969 to 1972, and then legal counsel to the Illinois State Senate Judiciary Committee from 1972 to 1982. Durbin was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for a seat in the Illinois State Senate in 1976. [3] He ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1978 as the running mate of State Superintendent of Schools Michael Bakalis. They were defeated by Republican incumbents Jim Thompson and Dave O'Neal. Durbin then worked as an adjunct professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine for five years while maintaining his law practice.

U.S. House of Representatives

In 1982, Durbin won the Democratic nomination for the now-eliminated 20th congressional district, which included Macon and most of Springfield. He scored a 1,400 vote victory, defeating 22-year incumbent Paul Findley, a U.S. Navy veteran, whose district lines had been substantially redrawn to remove rural farms and add economically depressed Macon, replacing 35-percent of the voters [4] [5] and include more Democrats as part of the decennial redistricting. Durbin's campaign emphasized unemployment and financial difficulties facing farmers, and told voters that electing him would send "a message to Washington and to President Reagan that our economic policies are not working." Durbin benefited from donations by pro-Israel groups from around the United States, in particular, concentrated support from AIPAC supporters, [6] that were opposed to Findley's advocacy on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization [7] in the year prior to the election. Durbin was re-elected six times, rarely facing serious opposition, and winning more than 55% of the vote in each election except 1994. [8] [9] [10]

U.S. Senate

Durbin speaks during the final night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, introducing his party's nominee, fellow Illinoisan Barack Obama Dick Durbin DNC 2008.jpg
Durbin speaks during the final night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, introducing his party's nominee, fellow Illinoisan Barack Obama

In 1996, Durbin defeated Pat Quinn to become the Democratic Party's nominee to replace the retiring Democratic incumbent, Senator Paul Simon, a long-time friend. He faced Republican State Representative Al Salvi in the November general election. Although the election had been expected to be competitive, Durbin benefited from Bill Clinton's 18-point win in Illinois that year and was able to capture a 15-point margin over his opponent. He has since been re-elected in 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2020, each time by at least 10%.

Committees

Caucus memberships

Leadership

Durbin eating lunch with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Obama,Biden,Richard Durbin and Steny,Hoyer.jpg
Durbin eating lunch with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

In November 1998, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle appointed Durbin as his Assistant Democratic Whip. Following the 2004 election, Durbin became the Democratic Whip in the 109th Congress. He became the first senator from Illinois to serve as a Senate Whip since Everett Dirksen did so in the late 1950s, and the fifth to serve in Senate Leadership. [15] Durbin served as Assistant Minority Leader from 2005 until 2007 when the Democrats became the Majority Party in the Senate. He then assumed the role of Assistant Majority Leader, or Majority Whip.

In addition to his caucus duties, Durbin is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. [16]

In 2000, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore reportedly considered asking Durbin to be his running mate and candidate for Vice President of the United States. [17] Gore ultimately selected Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. [18]

When Majority Leader Harry Reid faced a difficult re-election fight in 2010, some pundits predicted a possibly heated fight to succeed him between his assistant Durbin and Senator Chuck Schumer, who is well known for his fund-raising prowess. [19] Reid's re-election victory, however, rendered such speculation moot.

Political positions

Durbin and Bob Menendez with Venezuela's interim President Juan Guaido in February 2020 Durbin, Menendez and Interim President Guaido.jpg
Durbin and Bob Menendez with Venezuela's interim President Juan Guaidó in February 2020

Durbin is considered one of the most liberal members of Congress.[ better source needed ] Mother Jones has called him a "top Senate liberal." [20] His voting record is very similar to the Democratic caucus position, consistent with his leadership position as Whip, which has the duty of persuading senators to follow the party line in their votes. As a trial lawyer, Durbin has excellent debating abilities, so much so that majority leader Harry Reid called him "the best debater" in the U.S. Senate.[ citation needed ]

He voiced his opposition to Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territories. [21]

Abortion

As a congressman, Durbin voted consistently to uphold existing restrictions on abortion or impose new limitations, including supporting a Constitutional amendment that would have nullified Roe v. Wade . [22] He reversed his position in 1989 and has since voted to maintain access to abortion, including support for Medicaid funding of it, and opposition to any limitation he considers a practical or potential encroachment upon Roe. [23] Durbin has maintained that this reversal came about due to personal reflection and his growing awareness of potentially harmful implications of his previous policy with respect to women facing dangerous pregnancies. [24] While visiting a home for abused children in Quincy, Illinois, the director, a friend, asked him to speak with two girls who were about to turn 18 and be turned out of state care. Talking with those girls, victims of gang rape and incest, made him reconsider his position on the subject. He says, "I still oppose abortion and would try my best to convince any woman in my family to carry the baby to term. But I believe that ultimately the decision must be made by the woman, her doctor, her family, and her conscience." [25]

In September 2020, Durbin voted to confirm pro-life judges Stephen McGlynn and David Dugan to lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary in Illinois. [26]

Child care

In 2019, Durbin and 34 other senators introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill that created 770,000 new child care jobs and that ensured families under 75 percent of the state median income did not pay for child care with higher-earning families having to pay "their fair share for care on a sliding scale, regardless of the number of children they have." The legislation also supported universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3 and 4-year-olds and gave the child care workforce a changed compensation and training to aid both teachers and caregivers. [27]

China

In April 2017, Durbin was one of 8 Democratic senators to sign a letter to President Trump noting government-subsidized Chinese steel had been placed into the American market in recent years below cost and had hurt the domestic steel industry and the iron ore industry that fed it, calling on Trump to raise the steel issue with President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping in his meeting with him. [28]

Criminal justice reform

In July 2017, along with Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris, Durbin was one of four senators to introduce the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act, legislation implementing a ban on the shackling of pregnant women and mandating the Bureau of Prisons to form superior visitation policies for parents along with providing parenting classes and offering health products such as tampons and pads for free. The bill also restricted prison employees from entering restrooms of the opposite sex with the exception of pressing circumstances. [29]

In December 2018, Durbin voted for the First Step Act, legislation aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners through expanding job training and other programs in addition to forming an expansion of early-release programs and modifications on sentencing laws such as mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, "to more equitably punish drug offenders." [30]

Darfur

On March 2, 2005, then-Senator Jon Corzine presented the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (S. 495) to the Senate. Durbin was one of 40 senators who co-sponsored that bill. The Darfur Accountability Act is noted as the premier legislative attempt to instill peace in Darfur. The bill also asked for all people involved in or deemed in some way responsible for the genocide in Darfur to be denied visas and entrance to the U.S.

In 2006, Durbin co-sponsored the Durbin-Leahy Amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill for emergency funding to instill peace in Darfur. In 2006, he also co-sponsored the Lieberman Resolution, and the Clinton Amendment.

On June 7, 2007, Durbin introduced the Sudan Disclosure Enforcement Act, which was "[a]imed at enhancing the U.S. Government's ability to impose penalties on violators of U.S. sanctions against Sudan." The bill called for the U.S. Security Council to vote on sanctions against the Sudanese Government for the genocide in Darfur.

Durbin has voted in favor of all Darfur-related legislation. In addition to the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, he also supported the Civilian Protection No-Fly Zone Act, the Hybrid Force Resolution, and the Sudan Divestment Authorization Act.

Myanmar

In October 2017, Durbin condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis. [31]

Guantanamo Bay

Durbin has openly compared the U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to the atrocities committed by "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings." Demands that he apologize were initially rebuffed, [32] however Durbin later apologized to the military for the 2005 remarks, which he admitted were "a very poor choice of words." [33]

Gun law

Durbin received an "F" grade from the National Rifle Association for his consistent support for gun control. [34]

Durbin sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May 2017 asking for support in expanding the Chicago Police Department's violence prevention programs by expanding access to the Strategic Decision Support Centers and the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. He also asked the Justice Department to support the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, which would stop illegal state-to-state gun trafficking. [35]

In response to mass shootings, such as the Orlando nightclub shooting and Las Vegas shooting, Durbin has repeatedly called for expanded gun control laws, stating that Congress would be "complicit" in the shooting deaths of people if they did not act. [36] [37]

Following the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, Durbin was one of twenty-four senators to sign a letter to National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins espousing the view that it was critical the NIH "dedicate a portion of its resources to the public health consequences of gun violence" at a time when 93 Americans die per day from gun-related fatalities and noted that the Dickey Amendment did not prohibit objective, scientific inquiries into shooting death prevention. [38]

In January 2019, Durbin was one of forty senators to introduce the Background Check Expansion Act, a bill that would require background checks for either the sale or transfer of all firearms including all unlicensed sellers. Exceptions to the bill's background check requirement included transfers between members of law enforcement, loaning firearms for either hunting or sporting events temporarily, providing firearms as gifts to members of one's immediate family, firearms being transferred as part of an inheritance, or giving a firearm to another person temporarily for immediate self-defense. [39]

HIV/AIDS

In March 2007, Durbin introduced the African Health Capacity Investment Act of 2007 to the Senate. The bill was designed so that over three years, the U.S. would supply over $600 million to help create safer medical facilities and working conditions, and to recruit and train doctors from all over North America.

In December 2007, Durbin and two other senators co-sponsored Senator John Kerry's Nondiscrimination in Travel and Immigration Act. Also, in March 2007, he joined thirty-two other senators to co-sponsor the Early Treatment for HIV Act of 2007.

2001 Invasion of Afghanistan

Durbin voted to approve the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists. This act granted the executive broad military powers and was used to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, along with many subsequent military interventions. [40]

Iraq War

On September 9, 2002, Durbin was the first of four Democratic senators (the others being Bob Graham, Feinstein, and Levin) on the Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), responding to the Bush administration's request for a joint resolution authorizing a preemptive war on Iraq without having prepared a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), to ask Central Intelligence Director George Tenet to prepare an NIE on the status of Iraq's Weapon of mass destruction programs. [41] Durbin was also one of few senators who read the resulting prepared October 1, 2002, NIE, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction. [42]

On September 29, 2002, Durbin held a news conference in Chicago to announce that "absent dramatic changes" in the resolution, he would vote against the resolution authorizing war on Iraq. [43] On October 2, 2002, at the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq War rally in Federal Plaza, he repeated his promise to oppose the resolution in a letter read during the rally. [44]

On October 10, 2002, the U.S. Senate failed to pass Durbin's amendment to the resolution to strike "the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and insert "an imminent threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction", by a 30–70 vote, with most Democratic senators voting for the amendment, but with 21 joining all 49 Republican senators voting against it. [45] On October 11, 2002, Durbin was one of 23 senators to vote against the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War. [46]

On April 25, 2007, Durbin said that as an intelligence committee member he knew in 2002 from classified information that the American people were being misled by the Bush Administration into a war on Iraq, but he could not reveal this because, as an intelligence committee member, he was sworn to secrecy. [47] This revelation prompted an online attack ad against Durbin by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. [48]

Fair Sentencing Act

Durbin authored the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, legislation that corrected some of the imbalance in cocaine sentencing. [49]

Immigration

Durbin is the chief proponent for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a piece of proposed federal legislation. This bill would provide certain students who entered or were brought to the nation illegally with the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they arrived in the US as children; graduated from a US high school; have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment; submit biometric data; pass a criminal background check; and complete two years toward a four-year degree from an accredited university or complete at least two years in the military within a five-year period. Durbin's leadership on this issue was recognized in 2013 when the Immigrant Legal Resource Center presented him with the inaugural Nancy Pelosi Award for Immigration & Civil Rights Policy. [50]

On January 28, 2013, Durbin was a member of a bipartisan group of eight Senators, the Gang of Eight, [51] which announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). [52]

In April 2018, Durbin was one of five senators to send a letter to acting director of ICE Thomas Homan on standards used by the agency when determining how to detain a pregnant woman, requesting that pregnant women not be held in custody unless under extraordinary standards after reports "that ICE has failed to provide critical medical care to pregnant women in immigration detention — resulting in miscarriages and other negative health outcomes". [53]

In July 2018, Durbin said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should resign over the Trump administration family separation policy. He argued it "is and was a cruel policy inconsistent with the bedrock values of the nation," adding someone "in this administration has to accept responsibility." Tyler Houlton, a DHS spokesman, replied through Twitter that "obstructionists in Congress should get to work". [54]

In July 2019, following reports that the Trump administration intended to end protections of spouses, parents and children of active-duty service members from deportation, Durbin was one of twenty-two senators to sign a letter led by Tammy Duckworth arguing that the program allowed service members the ability "to fight for the United States overseas and not worry that their spouse, children, or parents will be deported while they are away" and that the program's termination would cause both personal hardship and a negatively impact for service members in combat. [55]

In October 2019, Durbin blocked the passage of S 386, Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, [56] which aims to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for all employment-based immigrants, and to increase the per-country limitation for all family-sponsored immigrants from seven percent to 15 percent. [57] Durbin is one of the original co-sponsors of a similar bill, in the previous congress, S.1983 — 112th Congress (2011-2012). [58] The only difference between current version of Senate bill S.386 and the previous version of a similar bill S.1983, is that S.1983 had the language "Includes nationals of Ireland coming to the United States under a treaty of commerce to perform specialty occupation services in the nonimmigrant E-3 visa category.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, argues, "The per country limits caused the backlog to develop unevenly. They result in an inequity between the proportion of applicants from certain countries and the proportion of green cards that nationals of those countries receive. The Indian backlog means that they carry almost the entire burden of the green card shortage. While they wait in line, nationals of other countries get to cut to the front of the line. Going forward, new EB2/EB3 applicants from India in 2019 will face astronomical wait times. At the current pace, it will take 49 years to process the Indian backlog—if people stick it out that long—and nearly 50,000 Indians would die before then. During that entire half century, other immigrants would keep bypassing Indians with almost no wait at all." [59]

Durbin argued that bill S.386 would prioritize people of Indian and Chinese origin, who have been in the green card backlog for years, at the expense of future immigrants from other countries. After blocking S.386, Durbin proposed his own bill which would almost triple the number of employment-based green cards and also eliminates country caps. [60]

Durbin himself agreed that his bill S.2603 would not pass in the current administration and promised for a bipartisan agreement to pass the Senate bill S386. [61]

"The point is, it cannot pass. Not with Trump in office," said Aman Kapoor, the leader of Immigration Voice, an activist group. Indians need a solution now, Kapoor said. "Every day, you see someone in the backlog is dying. Or kids are aging out," Kapoor said. "People are very stressed out because of the backlog." Proponents of S386 argue that the bill will be a fair first-in-first-out system in place of the current discriminatory system that has resulted in a decades-long backlog of high-skilled immigrants who have already applied for a green card. [62] They also argue that basing employment green card allotment based on an immutable characteristic like national origin goes against the spirit of civil rights act of 1964 which outlaws national origin discrimination in employment, since national origin has no place in employment decisions. However, the opponents of the bill, mostly those who currently benefit from the birth-country reservation, argue that the discrimination argument is flawed as getting a green card is not a protected right of any foreign worker. Opponents also argue that legislative proposals such as S.386 do not address the issue of too few employment-based green cards for an economy that has doubled in size since the law establishing their current statutory limits was passed in 1990. Opponents want to keep the per country reservation in-place in skilled immigration until visa numbers are increased, in other-way, to continue bypassing the waiting, at the expense of Immigrants in backlog.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report stating that with the current immigration laws, the wait time for an Indian national of FY2020 would be 195 years and for a Chinese national would be 18 years, while a national from any other country wait 0 years. Under amended S.386, the wait time for all applicants would be 37 evenly, regardless of their national origin by FY2030. [63] Increasing Green Card numbers, along with ending per-country limits on employment-based green cards would be an ideal solution. [64]

The immigrants in backlog frustrated by his silence, conducted several rallies, including a peaceful rally on July 4. [65] On August 31, 2020, Senator Durbin released his hold and agreed to pass the bill with Unanimous consent. But Senator Rick Scott from Florida blocked the bill, seeking 18,000 green-card reservation for people from certain countries.

Tobacco regulation

In 1987, Durbin introduced major tobacco regulation legislation in the House. This bill was to ban cigarette smoking on airline flights of two hours or less. He was joined by Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), in saying that the rights of smokers to smoke ends where their smoking affects the health and safety of others, such as on airplanes. The bill went on to pass as part of the 1988 transportation spending bill. In 1989, Congress banned cigarette smoking on all domestic airline flights. [66]

In March 1994, Durbin proposed an amendment to the Improving America's Schools Act that required schools receiving Federal drug prevention money to teach elementary and secondary students about the dangers of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. The amendment also required schools to warn students against tobacco and teach them how to resist peer pressure to smoke. [67]

In February 2008, Durbin called on Congress to support a measure that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to oversee the tobacco industry. This measure would require companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, restrict advertising and promotions, and it would mandate the removal of harmful ingredients in tobacco products. The measure would also prohibit tobacco companies from using terms like "low risk," "light," and "mild" on the packaging.

Durbin attributes his stance against tobacco smoking to his father, who smoked two packs of Camel cigarettes a day and died of lung cancer.

Russia

Durbin spearheaded a nonbinding resolution in July 2018 "warning President Trump not to let the Russian government question diplomats and other officials". The resolution states the United States "should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin". It passed 98–0. [68]

In December 2018, after United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration was suspending its obligations in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 60 days if Russia continued to violate the treaty, Durbin was one of 26 senators to sign a letter expressing concern over the administration "now abandoning generations of bipartisan U.S. leadership around the paired goals of reducing the global role and number of nuclear weapons and ensuring strategic stability with America's nuclear-armed adversaries" and calling on President Trump to continue arms negotiations. [69]

Freedom of expression

In 2007, speaking as Senate Majority Whip, Durbin went on record as stating that "It's time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine." [70]

In 2010, Durbin cosponsored and passed from committee the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, a bill aiming to combat media piracy by blacklisting websites though many opposed to the bill argue that it violates First Amendment rights and promotes censorship. [71] [72] The announcement of the bill was followed by a wave of protest from digital rights activists, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling it censorship and stating that action may be taken against all users of sites in which only some users are uploading infringing material. [73]

Durbin was a sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act. [74]

Financial crisis of 2007–2010

Durbin meeting with Raj Date, then Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to discuss helping consumers compare bank fees Dick Durbin and Raj Date.jpg
Durbin meeting with Raj Date, then Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to discuss helping consumers compare bank fees

On April 27, 2009, in an interview with WJJG talk radio host Ray Hanania, Durbin accused banks of creating the financial crisis of 2007–2010. Durbin expressed a belief that many of the banks responsible for creating the crisis "own the place," referring to the power wielded by the banking lobby on Capitol Hill. [75]

On September 18, 2008, Durbin attended a closed meeting with congressional leaders, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and was urged to craft legislation to help financially troubled banks. That same day (trade effective the next day), Durbin sold mutual-fund shares worth $42,696 and reinvested it all with Warren Buffett. [76]

On February 26, 2009, Durbin introduced the Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Credit Rates Act of 2009, calling for a maximum annual interest rate cap of 36%, including all interest and fees. [77] This bill was intended to put an end to predatory lending activities.

Rod Blagojevich

Shortly after Governor Rod Blagojevich's arrest on federal corruption charges on December 9, 2008, Durbin called for the Illinois legislature to quickly pass legislation for a special election to fill then-President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. [78] He stated that no United States Senate appointment of Blagojevich's could produce a credible replacement under the circumstances. [79]

Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus in writing Illinois Governor Blagojevich to urge him to resign and not name a successor to Obama following Blagojevich's arrest. [80]

Trade

In January 2005, Durbin changed his longstanding position on sugar tariffs and price supports. After several years of voting to keep sugar quotas and price supports, Durbin now favors abolishing the program. "The sugar program depended on congressmen like me from states that grew corn," Durbin said, referring to the fact that, though they were formerly a single entity, the sugar market and the corn syrup market are now largely separate. [81]

In May 2006, Durbin campaigned to maintain a $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Durbin justified the tariff by joining Barack Obama in stating that "ethanol imports are neither necessary nor a practical response to current gasoline prices," arguing instead that domestic ethanol production is sufficient and expanding. [82] The American Coalition for Ethanol gave him a rating of 100%.[ citation needed ]

American Airlines praised him for arguing for the need to lower rising oil prices. [83]

Environment

Among Durbin's legislative causes are environmental protection, particularly the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. League of Conservation Voters gives him a rating of 89%. Sierra Club gives him a 90% rating.[ citation needed ]

Other positions

Durbin meets with Elena Kagan Dick Durbin with Elena Kagan.jpg
Durbin meets with Elena Kagan

Durbin has also been a major proponent of expanded Amtrak funding and support. In October 2007, he opposed a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would allow three casinos to be built, saying, "I really, really think we ought to stop and catch our breath and say, 'Is this the future of Illinois? That every time we want to do something we'll just build more casinos?'" [84]

Durbin reintroduced the Fair Elections Now Act during the 112th Congress. The bill would provide public funds to candidates who do not take political donations larger than $100 from any donor. [85]

In April 2013, Durbin chaired a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights concerning the moral, legal and constitutional issues surrounding targeted killings and the use of drones. Durbin stated, "Many in the national security community are concerned that we may undermine our counter-terrorism efforts if we do not carefully measure the benefits and costs of targeted killing." [86]

In August 2013, Durbin was one of twenty-three Democratic senators to sign a letter to the Defense Department warning of some payday lenders "offering predatory loan products to service members at exorbitant triple-digit effective interest rates and loan products that do not include the additional protections envisioned by the law" and asserting that service members along with their families "deserve the strongest possible protections and swift action to ensure that all forms of credit offered to members of our armed forces are safe and sound." [87]

In June 2015, Durbin sent a letter to the prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsinuk, about fully supporting Yatsinuk's efforts of governing.[ citation needed ]

In March 2018, Durbin was one of 10 senators to sign a letter spearheaded by Jeff Merkley lambasting a proposal from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that would curb the scope of benefits from the Lifeline program during a period where roughly 6.5 million people in poor communities relied on Lifeline to receive access to high-speed internet, citing that it was Pai's "obligation to the American public, as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to improve the Lifeline program and ensure that more Americans can afford access, and have means of access, to broadband and phone service." The senators also advocated for insuring "Lifeline reaches more Americans in need of access to communication services." [88]

In March 2019, Durbin was one of 10 Democratic senators to sign a letter to Salman of Saudi Arabia requesting the release of human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and writer Raif Badawi, women's rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul and Samar Badawi, and Dr. Walid Fitaih. The senators wrote, "Not only have reputable international organizations detailed the arbitrary detention of peaceful activists and dissidents without trial for long periods, but the systematic discrimination against women, religious minorities and mistreatment of migrant workers and others has also been well-documented." [89]

In April 2019, Durbin was one of 34 senators to sign a letter to President Trump encouraging him "to listen to members of your own Administration and reverse a decision that will damage our national security and aggravate conditions inside Central America", asserting that Trump had "consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance" since becoming president and that he was "personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity" through preventing the use of Fiscal Year 2018 national security funding. The senators argued that foreign assistance to Central American countries created less migration to the U.S., citing the funding's helping to improve conditions in those countries. [90]

In April 2019, Durbin was one of 6 senators to send a letter to Director of the CFPB Kathy Kraninger expressing concern "CFPB leadership has abandoned its supervision and enforcement activities related to federal student loan servicers" and opined that such behavior displayed "a shocking disregard for the financial well-being of our nation's public servants, including teachers, first responders, and members of the military." The senators requested that Kraninger clarify the role of the CFPB in overseeing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness's student loan servicers handling since December 2017 such as examinations made by the CFPB. [91]

In April 2019, Durbin was one of 41 senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that President Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020. [92]

In June 2019, Durbin was one of 15 senators to introduce the Affordable Medications Act, legislation intended to promote transparency through mandating pharmaceutical companies disclose the amount of money going toward research and development in addition to both marketing and executives' salaries. The bill also abolished the restriction that stopped the federal Medicare program from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for beneficiaries and hinder drug company monopoly practices used to keep prices high and disable less expensive generics entering the market. [93]

In August 2019, Durbin, three other Senate Democrats, and Bernie Sanders signed a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless in response to Novartis falsifying data as part of an attempt to gain the FDA's approval for its new gene therapy Zolgensma, writing that it was "unconscionable that a drug company would provide manipulated data to federal regulators in order to rush its product to market, reap federal perks, and charge the highest amount in American history for its medication." [94]

Durbin was participating in the 2021 United States Electoral College count when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Durbin, along with other senators and staff, ran out of the Senate Chamber after the attackers, which Durbin called "extremists", breached the Capitol. He then evacuated to a secure location with Pelosi, McConnell and Schumer. [95] Durbin blamed Trump for the attack. He also said fellow Senator Josh Hawley was partially responsible for the storming. He also called for Trump's removal through the invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution or impeachment. [96]

Guantanamo interrogation criticism

Durbin received media attention on June 14, 2005, when in the U.S. Senate chambers he compared interrogation techniques used at Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Bay, as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to those utilized by such regimes as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Khmer Rouge:

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here  I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18–24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold.... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime  Pol Pot or others  that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners. [97]

Durbin's comments drew widespread criticism that comparing U.S. actions to such regimes insulted the United States and victims of genocide. Radio host Rush Limbaugh and White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove accused Durbin of treason, [98] while former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called on the Senate to censure Durbin. [99] Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose son Patrick was serving in U.S. Army, also called on Durbin to apologize for his remarks, saying that he thought it was a "disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military would act like that." [100] John Wertheim, Democratic state party chairman of New Mexico, and Jim Pederson, Arizona Democratic party chairman, also criticized Durbin's remarks. [101] The leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars also demanded an apology, [102] as did the Anti-Defamation League [100]

Durbin initially did not apologize, but on June 21, 2005, he went before the Senate, saying, "More than most people, a senator lives by his words ... occasionally words fail us, occasionally we will fail words." [103]

Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic , praised Durbin for raising serious moral issues about U.S. policy. [104] Other commentators, including liberal commentator Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of Daily Kos , condemned Durbin for apologizing to his critics, arguing Durbin made a mistake in making himself, rather than detention and torture concerns at Guantanamo Bay, the focus of media coverage. [105] [106]

Attempts to remove PAC radio advertisements

In July 2014, Americas PAC, a Political Action Committee designed to elect conservative Republicans, released a radio advertisement attacking Durbin on his staff salaries. [107] This was based on a Washington Times article that stated Durbin's female staff members made $11,000 less annually than his male staffers. [108] In response, lawyers representing Durbin submitted a letter claiming the information in the ad was false and that the radio stations would be liable for airing the ad, with the possibility of losing their FCC license. [109] The radio station stated the sources provided to back up the information provided by Americas PAC were checked and proved to be in line and that they would keep the radio advertisement on air. [110]

Electoral history

Illinois 50th Senate District General Election, 1976 [111]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican John Davidson (incumbent) 48,760 50.86
Democratic Richard J. Durbin47,11249.14
Total votes95,872 100.0
1978 gubernatorial election, Illinois [112]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican James R. Thompson (incumbent)
David C. O'Neal (incumbent)
1,859,68459.04
Democratic Michael Bakalis
Richard J. Durbin
1,263,13440.10
Libertarian Georgia Shields11,4200.36
Socialist Workers Cecil Lampkin11,0260.35
U.S. Labor Melvin Klenetsky4,7370.15
Write-in Others1060.00
Total votes3,150,107
Illinois 20th Congressional District Democratic Primary, 1982 [113]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin 33,956 75.33
Democratic John L. Knuppel 11,11924.67
Total votes45,075 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1982 [114]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin 100,758 50.35
Republican Paul Findley (incumbent)99,34849.65
Write-in votesWrite-in30.00
Total votes200,109 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District Democratic Primary, 1984 [113]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 53,588 92.47
Democratic Louis K. Widmar4,3637.53
Total votes57,951 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1984 [115]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 145,092 61.23
Republican Richard G. Austin91,72838.73
N/AOther10.00
Total votes236,821 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1986 [114]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 126,556 68.10
Republican Kevin B. McCarthy59,29131.90
Total votes185,847 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1988 [116]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 153,341 68.87
Republican Paul E. Jurgens69,30331.13
Total votes222,644 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1990 [117]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 130,114 66.20
Republican Paul Jurgens66,43333.80
Total votes196,547 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1992 [118]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 154,869 56.50
Republican John M. Shimkus 119,21943.50
Total votes274,088 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District Democratic Primary, 1994 [113]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 46,248 99.97
Democratic Donald WM. Owens (write-in)140.03
Total votes46,262 100.0
Illinois 20th Congressional District General Election, 1994 [114]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 108,034 54.84
Republican Bill Owens88,96445.16
Total votes196,998 100.0
Illinois U.S. Senator (Class II) Democratic Primary, 1996 [113]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin 512,520 64.87
Democratic Pat Quinn 233,13829.50
Democratic Ronald F. Gibbs17,6812.23
Democratic J. Ahmad17,2112.17
Democratic Paul Park9,5051.20
Total votes790,055 100.0
Illinois U.S. Senator (Class II) General Election, 1996 [119]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin 2,341,744 54.32
Republican Al Salvi 1,728,82440.10
Reform Steven H. Perry61,0231.42
Libertarian Robin J. Miller41,2180.96
Constitution Chad Koppie17,5630.41
Natural Law James E. Davis13,8380.32
Write-in votesWrite-in4,2280.10
Total votes4,311,391 100.0
Illinois U.S. Senator (Class II) General Election, 2002 [120]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 2,103,766 60.33
Republican Jim Durkin 1,325,70338.02
Libertarian Steven Burgauer57,3821.65
Total votes3,486,851 100.0
Illinois U.S. Senator (Class II) General Election, 2008 [121]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 3,615,844 67.84
Republican Steve Sauerberg1,520,62128.53
Green Kathy Cummings119,1352.24
Libertarian Larry A. Stafford50,2240.94
Constitution Chad N. Koppie24,0590.45
Write-in votesPatricia Elaine Beard10.00
Total votes5,329,884 100.0
Illinois U.S. Senator (Class II) General Election, 2014 [122]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 1,929,637 53.55
Republican James D. "Jim" Oberweis 1,538,52242.69
Libertarian Sharon Hansen135,3163.76
Write-in votesRoger K. Davis310.00
Write-in votesHilaire F. Shioura120.00
Write-in votesSherry Procarione10.00
Total votes3,603,519 100.0
Illinois U.S. Senator (Class II) General Election, 2020 [123]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Democratic Richard J. Durbin (incumbent) 3,278,930 54.93
Republican Mark Curran 2,319,87038.87
Willie Wilson Party Willie Wilson 237,6993.98
Libertarian Danny Malouf75,6731.27
Green David Black55,7110.95
Write-in 180.00
Total votes5,968,901 100.0

Personal life

Family

Durbin and his wife Loretta have had three children, Christine, Jennifer and Paul. After several weeks in the hospital with complications due to a congenital heart condition, Christine died on November 1, 2008. [124]

Conflict of interest issues

Durbin's wife Loretta was a lobbyist, and it was reported by the Chicago Tribune in 2014 that some of her "clients have received federal funding promoted by [Durbin]". [125] In addition to announcing the award of monies to ten clients of his wife's lobbying firm, these conflicts included her lobbying firm receiving a one-year contract with a housing nonprofit group around the time the senator went to bat for the organization; a state university receiving funds through an earmark by Durbin when his wife was its lobbyist; and Durbin arranging federal money for a public health nonprofit when his wife was seeking state support for the same group. [125] [33] The Durbins maintain that they try to avoid conflicts of interest, however. [125]

Religion

Senator Durbin is Roman Catholic. In 2004, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois barred him from receiving communion because he voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The current bishop of the Diocese said Durbin stays away from his Springfield parish because "he doesn't want to make a scene." [126] Durbin responded to the communion ban in 2004 saying that he is accountable to his constituents, even if it means defying Church teachings. [127] In 2018, the decision to deny Durbin communion in the Springfield Diocese was affirmed by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki after Durbin's vote against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. [128] Durbin continues to practice his faith, attending mass and receiving communion at Old Saint Patrick's church in Chicago. [127]

In 2017, Durbin was criticized for his requesting a clarification of then-judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett during her Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, regarding her self-descriptive terminology, "orthodox Catholic." He contended that might unfairly characterize Catholics who may not agree with the church's positions about abortion or the death penalty. She contended, "litigants and the general public are entitled to impartial justice, and that may be something that a judge who is heedful of ecclesiastical pronouncements cannot dispense." Barrett opined that judges aren't bound by precedent conflicting with the Constitution. [129] Barrett wrote that judges could recuse themselves from hearing matters if their faith conflicted with issues to be decided in cases they might otherwise hear. [130] An article in the conservative National Review contended, "Senators must inquire about these issues when considering lifetime appointments because ensuring impartiality and fidelity to precedent are critical for the rule of law." [129] [131] The issue prompted questions regarding the application of Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution which mandates: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." [132]

Film and television appearances

Film
YearTitleRoleNotes
2010Pricele$$ [133] HimselfDocumentary
2015The Gettysburg Address [134] HimselfDocumentary

See also

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Further reading

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul Findley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th congressional district

1983–1997
Succeeded by
John Shimkus
Party political offices
Preceded by
Paul Simon
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
(Class 2)

1996, 2002, 2008, 2014, 2020
Most recent
Preceded by
Harry Reid
Senate Democratic Whip
2005–present
Incumbent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Paul Simon
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
1997–present
Served alongside: Carol Moseley Braun, Peter Fitzgerald, Barack Obama, Roland Burris, Mark Kirk, Tammy Duckworth
Incumbent
Preceded by
Harry Reid
Senate Minority Whip
2005–2007
Succeeded by
Trent Lott
Preceded by
Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Whip
2007–2015
Succeeded by
John Cornyn
Preceded by
John Cornyn
Senate Minority Whip
2015–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ron Wyden
United States Senators by seniority
9th
Succeeded by
Jack Reed