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Richard Joseph "Dick" Durbin (born November 21, 1944) is the senior United States Senator from the U.S. state of Illinoismarker and Democratic Party Whip, the second highest position in the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate. He became Majority Whip of the U.S. Senate when the 110th Congress convened on January 4, 2007. In April 2006, Time magazine identified Senator Durbin as one of "America's 10 Best Senators." He was the first United States Senator to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama.

Early life and family

Durbin was born in East St. Louismarker to an Irish-American father, William Durbin, and a Lithuanian-born mother, Ann Kutkin (Lithuanian: Ona Kutkaitė). 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 Servicemarker at Georgetown Universitymarker in 1966. He was an intern in the office of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas during his senior year in college. Durbin earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Centermarker in 1969 and was admitted to the Illinois bar later that year.

After graduating from law school, Durbin started a law practice in Springfieldmarker. 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. 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.

Durbin and his wife Loretta had two daughters, Christine and Jennifer, and a son, Paul. After several weeks in the hospital with complications due to a congenital heart condition, Christine died on November 1, 2008.

U.S. House of Representatives

In 1982, Durbin won the Democratic nomination for the 20th Congressional District, which includes most of Springfield. He scored a huge upset, defeating 22-year incumbent Paul Findley. Durbin was reelected six times, rarely facing serious opposition, and winning more than 55% of the vote in each election except 1994.

: Results 1982–1994
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
1982 100,758 99,348
1984 145,092 91,728
1986 126,556 59,291
1988 153,341 69,303
1990 130,114 66,433
1992 154,869 119,219
1994 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 108,034 Bill Owens 88,964


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 U.S. Senate election was initially expected to be competitive, Durbin won by a surprising 15-point margin, undoubtedly helped by Bill Clinton's 18-point win in Illinois that year.

In 2001, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle appointed him to the role of Assistant Democratic Floor Leader. On November 5, 2004, Durbin announced that he had enough committed votes to become the Democratic Whip in the 109th Congress. He became the first Illinois Senator to serve as Senate Whip since Everett Dirksen in the late 1950s. His role marks the fifth time in history an Illinois Senator has served as a Senate leader.

He became Majority Whip when the Democrats gained control of the Senate after the 2006 elections. Durbin served as Assistant Minority Leader from 2004 until 2006, when the Democrats became the Majority party in the Senate. He then assumed the role of Assistant Majority Leader, or Majority Whip.

Durbin also currently serves as chairman for two Senate subcommittees: the Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

In 2000, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore listed Durbin as a possible running mate for the position of Vice President of the United States. Gore, however, ultimately selected Connecticutmarker Senator Joe Lieberman to be his running mate.

As many polls showed, the senate majority leader Harry Reid maybe very vulnerable in his re-election in 2010, if Reid choose to retire or is defeated next year, Durbin will have a chance of becoming the majority leader of U.S. senate.

Committee assignments

Political positions

Durbin is one of the most liberal members in congress, and 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 an excellent ability of debating, so that his boss, the senate majority leader Harry Reid called him "the best debater" in the U.S. senate.


As a congressman, Durbin voted consistently to uphold pre-existing restrictions on abortion or impose new limitations including supporting a Constitutional amendment that would have nullifed Roe v. Wade. He reversed his position in 1989 and has since voted to maintain access to abortion, including support for Medicaid funding of the procedure, and opposition to any limitation that he considers a practical or potential encroachment upon Roe. Durbin has maintained that this reversal came about as a result of personal reflection and his growing awareness of potentially harmful implications of his previous policy with respect to women facing dangerous pregnancies. While visiting a home for abused children in Quincy, Illinoismarker, 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 the 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."

NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood both give him a 100% rating while the National Right to Life Committee gives him a 0% rating.


On March 2, 2005, former Senator Jon Corzine presented the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (S. 495) to the Senate. Durbin was one of 40 senators who co-sponsored the bill. The Darfur Accountability Act is noted as the premier legislative attempt to instill peace in Darfur. The bill asks that all people involved in or deemed in some way responsible for the genocide in Darfur 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, "Aimed at enhancing the U.S. Government's ability to impose penalties on violators of U.S. sanctions against Sudan." The bill called for the United Nations 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.


In March 2007, Durbin introduced the African Health Capacity Investment Act of 2007 to the Senate. The bill was designed so that over a three year period, the U.S. would supply over $600 million to help create safer medical facilities and working conditions, and the recruitment and training of doctors from all over the continent.

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

American Public Health Association gives him a rating of 100%.

Iraq War

On September 9, 2002, Durbin was the first of four Democratic senators (the others being Sens. Bob Graham, Feinstein, and Levin) on the Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), responding to the Bush administration's request for a joint Congressional resolution authorizing a preemptive war on Iraq without having prepared a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), to ask George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, to prepare a NIE on the status of Iraqmarker's WMD programs.

Durbin was one of the few senators who read the resulting prepared October 1, 2002 NIE, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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. On October 2, 2002, at the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq War rally in Federal Plazamarker, Durbin repeated his promise to oppose the resolution in a letter read during the rally.

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 vote of 30 to 70, with the majority of Democratic senators voting for the amendment, but with 21 Democratic senators joining all 49 Republican senators voting against it.

On October 11, 2002, Durbin was one of 23 U.S. Senators to vote against the joint Congressional resolution authorizing the Iraq War.

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.

This revelation prompted an online attack ad against Durbin by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.


Dick Durbin is the chief proponent for The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The "DREAM Act"), a piece of proposed federal legislation. This bill would provide certain illegal immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.

Tobacco regulation

In 1987, Durbin introduced major tobacco regulation legislation in the House to ban cigarette smoking on airline flights of two hours or less. He was joined by Rep. C. W. Bill Young, a Republican from Florida, in saying that the rights of smokers to smoke end 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.

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

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

Freedom of Speech

In June 2006, Durbin voted against a federal ban on burning the U.S. flag as a form of protest.

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

Financial crisis of 2007–2009

On April 27, 2009, in an interview with WJJGmarker talk radio host Ray Hanania, Durbin accused banks of creating the financial crisis of 2007–2009. 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.

On September 18, 2008, Senator 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), Senator Durbin sold mutual-fund shares worth $42,696.

Durbin is currently sponsoring a bill (Senate Bill 500) that calls for a maximum annual interest rate cap of 36%, including all interest and fees. This bill will purportedly put an end to predatory lending activities. However, if passed, it will have a far-reaching impact on many industries - including pawn shop lending, auto title lending, and payday lending - and the customers who rely on their short-term, small-dollar loans.

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. He stated that no United States Senate appointment of Blagojevich's could produce a credible replacement under the circumstances.

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 Illinoismarker Senator Obama following Blagojevich's arrest. Despite this, the governor appointed Roland Burris to the seat on December 30. Burris is a former state official and donated thousands to Blagojevich's re-election fund.


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.

In May 2006, Durbin campaigned to maintain a $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Durbin justified the tariff by joining Senator 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. American Coalition for Ethanol gives him a rating of 100%.


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

Other positions

He worked with Senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer in attempting to block President Bush's judicial nominations and prevent closure of military bases in Illinois.

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?'"

He has campaigned against asbestos.

AgricultureNational Farmers Union gives him a rating of 100%.

Animal rights and wildlifeHumane Society of the United States gives him a rating of 100%.

Budget, spending, and taxesAmericans for Tax Reform gives him a rating of 5%. Citizens for Tax Justice gives him a rating of 100%. National Taxpayers Union gives him a rating of 14%. U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives him a rating of 45%.

Civil liberties and civil rightsAmerican Civil Liberties Union gives him a rating of 71%. NAACP gives him a rating of 100%. Americans United for Separation of Church and State gives him a rating of 100%.

ConservativeThe John Birch Society gives him a rating of 10%.

EducationNational Education Association of America gives him an A rating.

Family and childrenChildren's Defense Fund gives him a rating of 100%.

Government reformCitizens Against Government Waste gives him a 4% rating. U.S. Public Interest Research Group gives him a rating of 95%.

GunsGun Owners of America gives him an F- rating. National Rifle Associationmarker gives him an F rating.

ImmigrationAmerican Immigration Lawyers Association gives him a rating of 88%.

LaborAFL-CIO gives him a rating of 100%.

Seniors and Social SecurityAlliance for Retired Americans gives him a rating of 100%. American Association of Retired Persons gives him a rating of 90%.

VeteransAmerican Legion gives him a rating of 50%. Disabled Veterans of America gives him a rating of 80%. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gives him an A- rating.

Welfare and povertySargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law gives him an A+ rating.

WomenNational Organization for Women gives him a rating of 96%.

OtherThe Cato Institute gives him a rating of 17%. Christian Coalition gives him a rating of 0%.

Guantanamo interrogation controversy

Durbin received a lot of media attention on June 14, 2005, when in the U.S. Senate chambers he compared interrogation techniques used at Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo Baymarker, as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker, with those utilized by such regimes as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Unionmarker, 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, Sovietsmarker 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."

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, while former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called on the Senate to censure Durbin. 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." John Wertheim, Democratic state party chairman of New Mexico, and Jim Pederson, Arizona Democratic party chairman, also criticized Durbin's remarks. The leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars also demanded an apology, as did the Anti-Defamation League

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."

Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, praised Durbin for raising serious moral issues about U.S. policy. 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.

Electoral history

Illinois Senator (Class II)]]: Results 1996–2002
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 2,384,028 56% Al Salvi 1,728,824 41% Steven H. Perry Reform 61,023 1% Miller Libertarian 41,218 1% Chad Koppie U.S. Taxpayers 17,563 <1% Davis Natural Law 13,838 <1%
2002 Richard J. Durbin 2,103,766 60% Jim Durkin 1,325,703 38% Steven Burgauer Libertarian 57,382 2%
  • Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1996, write-ins received 4,228 votes.
Vote Totals for Senate Candidates]]: Results 2008
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2008 Richard J. Durbin 3,516,846 67.8% Steve Sauerberg 1,479,984 28.5% Kathy J. Cummings Green 119,135 2.2% Larry A. Stafford Libertarian 50,224 <1% Chad N. Koppie Constitution 24,059 <1%


  1. "Dick Durbin: The Debater" - Time
  2. Durbin once questioned if Obama could win Daily Herald
  3. durbin
  4. Dick Durbin: Bush Fighter - January 27, 2005
  5. Project Vote Smart - Senator Richard J. "Dick" Durbin - Biography
  6. Gore considers naming VP immediately after GOP convention - June 13, 2000 CNN
  7. Joseph Lieberman Accepts Al Gore's Offer to Join the Democratic Ticket CNN
  8. The Durbin Abortion Papers
  9. Richard Durbin on Abortion
  10. Excerpt from NBC News' Meet the Press
  11. 109th Congress, 2nd session, Senate vote 189 | Congress votes database|
  12. - GOP preps for talk radio confrontation
  13. “Durbin Invests With Buffett After Funds Sale Amid Market Plunge” June 13, 2008, Retrieved 2008-09-14
  14. Some Illinois lawmakers call for Blagojevich to resign
  15. Durbin urges special election to succeed Obama
  16. Barack Obama, U.S. senators, state officials urge Rod Blagojevich to resign
  17. Congressman Mark Steven Kirk - 10th District of Illinois
  18. [1]
  19. [2]
  20. Harper's Magazine, Stabbed in the Back!: The past and future of a right-wing myth
  21. [3]
  22. Durbin Apologizes for Remarks on Abuse
  23. Durbin's Gitmo remarks draw fire back in Illinois
  24. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) :: News
  26. The Daily Dish
  27. CT article ]
  28. Daily Kos: Durbin fucked up
  29. Ballots cast in IL for General Election, 2008
  30. Durbin breezes to third term in U.S. Senate - Chicago Tribune

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