Dick Durbin

Richard Joseph Durbin (born November 21, 1944) is an American 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.

Durbin was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He graduated from the Georgetown University 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. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1982, representing the Springfield-based 20th congressional district. In 1996, he won election to the U.S. Senate by an unexpected 15-point margin. He has served as Senate Democratic Whip since 2005, and for a period of eight years (2007–2015) served as the Senate Majority Whip. He is currently dean of the Illinois congressional delegation, as he has served in Congress since 1983 as a U.S. Representative from Illinois 20th Congressional District, and from 1997 as a U.S. Senator from Illinois.

Durbin now serves as the Senate Minority Whip following the 2014 midterm elections, where the Republicans gained a majority in the U.S. Senate and when he won reelection, defeating Republican Jim Oberweis, by a margin of 53.55% to 42.69%.

Dick Durbin
Richard Durbin official photo
Senate Minority Whip
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
LeaderHarry Reid
Chuck Schumer
Preceded byJohn Cornyn
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
LeaderHarry Reid
Preceded byHarry Reid
Succeeded byTrent Lott
United States Senator
from Illinois
Assumed office
January 3, 1997
Serving with Tammy Duckworth
Preceded byPaul Simon
Senate Majority Whip
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2015
LeaderHarry Reid
Preceded byMitch McConnell
Succeeded byJohn Cornyn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 20th district
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byPaul Findley
Succeeded byJohn Shimkus
Personal details
Richard Joseph Durbin

November 21, 1944 (age 74)
East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Loretta Schaefer (m. 1967)
EducationGeorgetown University (BS, JD)
WebsiteSenate website

Early life, education and career

Durbin was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, to an Irish-American father, William Durbin, and a Lithuanian-born mother, Anna (née Kutkin; Lithuanian: Ona Kutkaitė).[1] 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.[2] 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[3][4] 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,[5] that were opposed to Findley's advocacy on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization[6] 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.[7][8][9]

U.S. Senate

Dick Durbin DNC 2008
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 and 2014, each time by at least 10%.


Caucus memberships


Obama,Biden,Richard Durbin and Steny,Hoyer
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.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16] Gore ultimately selected Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.[17]

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.[18] Reid's re-election victory, however, rendered such speculation moot.

Political positions

Durbin is one of the most liberal members of Congress. Mother Jones has called him a "top Senate liberal."[19] 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.


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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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."[23]


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 asks that 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 as "[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.

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,[24] however Durbin later apologized to the military for the 2005 remarks, which he admitted were "a very poor choice of words."[25]

Gun law

Durbin received an "F" grade from the National Rifle Association for his consistent support for gun control.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28][29]


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 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.[30]

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 a NIE on the status of Iraq's Weapon of mass destruction programs.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34]

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.[35] On October 11, 2002, Durbin was one of 23 senators to vote against the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War.[36]

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.[37] This revelation prompted an online attack ad against Durbin by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.[38]

Fair Sentencing Act

Durbin authored the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, a legislation that corrected some of the imbalance in cocaine sentencing.[39]


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.[40]

On January 28, 2013, Durbin was a member of a bi-partisan group of eight Senators which announced principles for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).[41]

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".[42]

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".[43]

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 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.[44]

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.[45]

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 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.


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.[46]

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 in the event that 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.[47]

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."[48]

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.[49][50] 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.[51]

Durbin was a sponsor of the PROTECT IP Act.[52]

Financial crisis of 2007–2010

Dick Durbin and Raj Date
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.[53]

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.[54]

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.[55] 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.[56] He stated that no United States Senate appointment of Blagojevich's could produce a credible replacement under the circumstances.[57]

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.[58]


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.[59]

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.[60] The American Coalition for Ethanol gave him a rating of 100%.

American Airlines praised him for arguing for the need to lower rising oil prices.[61]


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.

Other positions

Dick Durbin with Elena Kagan
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?'"[62]

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.[63]

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."[64]

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

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."[65]

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.[66]

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,[67] while former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called on the Senate to censure Durbin.[68] 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."[69] John Wertheim, Democratic state party chairman of New Mexico, and Jim Pederson, Arizona Democratic party chairman, also criticized Durbin's remarks.[70] The leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars also demanded an apology,[71] as did the Anti-Defamation League[69]

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."[72]

Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, praised Durbin for raising serious moral issues about U.S. policy.[73] 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.[74][75]

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.[76] This was based upon a Washington Times article that stated Durbin's female staff members made $11,000 less annually than his male staffers.[77] 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.[78] 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.[79]

Electoral history

Illinois's 20th congressional district: Results 1982–1994[80]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
1982 Richard J. Durbin 100,758 50.4% Paul Findley (inc.) 99,348 49.6%
1984 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 145,092 61.3% Richard Austin 91,728 38.7%
1986 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 126,556 68.1% Kevin McCarthey 59,291 31.9%
1988 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 153,341 68.9% Paul Jurgens 69,303 31.1%
1990 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 130,114 66.2% Paul Jurgens 66,433 33.8%
1992 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 154,869 56.5% John M. Shimkus 119,219 43.5%
1994 Richard J. Durbin (inc.) 108,034 54.8% Bill Owens 88,964 45.2%
United States Senator (Class II): Results 1996–2014[80]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct
1996 Richard J. Durbin 2,384,028 56% Al Salvi 1,728,824 41%
2002 Richard J. Durbin 2,103,766 60% Jim Durkin 1,325,703 38%
2008 Richard J. Durbin 3,516,846 68% Steve Sauerberg 1,479,984 29%
2014 Richard J. Durbin 1,929,637 53.5% Jim Oberweis 1,538,522 42.7%

Personal life


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.[81]

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]".[82] 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.[82][25] The Durbins maintain that they try to avoid conflicts of interest, however.[82]


Dick 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."[83] Durbin responded to the communion ban in 2004 saying that he is accountable to his constituents, even if it means defying Church teachings.[84] 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.[85] Durbin continues to practice his faith, attending mass and receiving communion at Old Saint Patrick's church in Chicago.[84]

In 2017, Durbin was criticized by the editorial board at his alma mater, Georgetown, a Catholic university, 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.[86] 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.[87] A 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."[86][88] 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."[89]

Film and television appearances

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Pricele$$ Himself Documentary
2015 The Gettysburg Address Himself Documentary


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Further reading

External links

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

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
Most recent
Preceded by
Harry Reid
Senate Democratic Whip
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Paul Simon
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
Served alongside: Carol Moseley Braun, Peter Fitzgerald, Barack Obama, Roland Burris, Mark Kirk, Tammy Duckworth
Preceded by
Harry Reid
Senate Minority Whip
Succeeded by
Trent Lott
Preceded by
Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Whip
Succeeded by
John Cornyn
Preceded by
John Cornyn
Senate Minority Whip
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Pat Roberts
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Jack Reed
1996 United States Senate election in Illinois

The 1996 United States Senate election in Illinois took place on November 5, 1996. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Paul Simon opted to retire rather than seek a third term in the United States Senate. In the Democratic primary, United States Congressman Dick Durbin emerged victorious, while State Representative Al Salvi won the Republican primary. Though the election was initially anticipated to be close, Durbin ended up defeating Salvi by a comfortable double-digit margin of victory, allowing him to win what would be the first of several terms in the Senate.

2002 United States Senate election in Illinois

The United States Senate election in Illinois was held on November 5, 2002. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin sought re-election to a second term in the United States Senate. Durbin defeated Republican challenger State Representative Jim Durkin in a landslide.

2008 United States Senate election in Illinois

The 2008 United States Senate election in Illinois was held on November 4, 2008. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin sought a third term in office and faced minimal opposition from physician Steve Sauerberg. As expected, Durbin overwhelmingly won re-election.

2014 United States Senate election in Illinois

The 2014 United States Senate election in Illinois took place on November 4, 2014, to elect a member of the United States Senate to represent the State of Illinois, concurrently with the election of the Governor of Illinois, as well as other elections to the United States Senate in other states and elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections.

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin ran for re-election to a fourth term. He was unopposed in the Democratic primary. The Republicans nominated State Senator and perennial candidate for higher office Jim Oberweis.

Durbin defeated Oberweis and Libertarian Sharon Hansen with 53.5% of the vote, the smallest vote total of any of his Senate elections.

2020 United States Senate election in Illinois

The 2020 United States Senate election in Illinois will be held on November 3, 2020, to elect a member of the United States Senate to represent the State of Illinois, concurrently with the 2020 U.S. presidential election, as well as other elections to the United States Senate in other states and elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections.

Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area

The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area is a National Heritage Area in central Illinois telling the story of Abraham Lincoln. A National Heritage Area is a federal-designated area intended to encourage historic preservation and an appreciation of the history and heritage of the site. While National Heritage Areas are not federally owned or managed, the National Park Service provides an advisory role and some technical, planning and financial assistance.

The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area was created as part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739), an omnibus bill. It was originally introduced in the Senate by Dick Durbin and in the House of Representatives by Ray LaHood, both from Illinois. The legislation also provided $10 million over 10 years, with no more than $1 million awarded in any single year, to make federal grants available for preservation, education and economic development. Grants awarded for Lincoln National Heritage Area activities must be matched dollar-for-dollar in state, local or private funds.

The management authority for the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area is the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition and follows Lincoln's life from his birth and childhood, to his early life and career, to the Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858.

The legislation protects private property rights and would not require any private citizen or entity to be affiliated with the Lincoln Heritage Area. The bill names the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition as the management authority for the National Heritage Area, but does not grant any zoning or land use power to the Coalition. Up to $10 million in federal grants would be available under this legislation

The Heritage Area includes the following sites:

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site

Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site at New Salem, Menard County, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

Mount Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site, Postville Courthouse State Historic Site and Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site

David Davis Mansion State Historic Site

Vandalia State House State Historic Site

Lincoln Douglas Debate Museum

Macon County Log Court House

Richard James Oglesby Mansion

Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial

John Wood Mansion

Beardstown Courthouse

Old Main at Knox College

Carl Sandburg State Historic Site

Bryant Cottage State Historic Site

Dr. William Fithian Home

Vermilion County Museum

Alpha House

Alpha House is an American political satire web television series produced by Amazon Studios. The show starred John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos as four Republican U.S. Senators who share a house in Washington, D.C. It was created by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau. The show premiered on Amazon.com on April 19, 2013.

The series is inspired by several actual Democratic legislators who share a row house in D.C.: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Representative George Miller (D-CA). The series has a number of cameos from celebrities such as Bill Murray (as Senator Vernon Smits) and politicians such as Schumer as himself.

Amazon Studios offered the first three episodes of Alpha House for free, with each subsequent episode released weekly thereafter for Amazon Prime members on Amazon Video.On February 11, 2014, the series was renewed for a second season. Production for the second season began filming in July 2014, and the entire second season became available on Amazon.com on October 24, 2014. The series was canceled after the second season.

Barrett Report

The Barrett Report is a 400-page report created by special prosecutor David Barrett. Initially tasked with investigating allegations of lying to the FBI against Henry Cisneros, Secretary of the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development under U.S. President Bill Clinton, the investigation eventually delved into allegations that President Clinton had used the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service as political tools against American citizens.Before the release of the report, three Democrat U.S. Senators, John Kerry, Dick Durbin and Byron Dorgan, forced the redaction of certain pages by attaching a rider to an unrelated appropriations bill.Cisneros, a former San Antonio mayor, eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of lying to the FBI. He paid a US$10,000 fine and was pardoned by President Clinton on Clinton's final day in office.

Cheri Bustos

Cheryl Lea Bustos (née Callahan; born October 17, 1961) is an American journalist, healthcare executive, and politician who has served as the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 17th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, Bustos is the first woman elected to Congress from her district. In 2019, Bustos assumed a leadership position among House Democrats as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Previously elected to the East Moline City Council in 2007, she defeated Republican incumbent Bobby Schilling in the 2012 congressional election and a subsequent 2014 rematch. Assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, she represents a northwest Illinois constituency anchored by the Quad Cities, Peoria, and Rockford. As of the 2016 elections, Bustos and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin are the only Democrats in the Illinois Congressional Delegation who are not from the Chicago area.


The DREAM Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) is an American legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for qualifying alien minors in the United States that would first grant conditional residency and, upon meeting further qualifications, permanent residency.

The bill was first introduced in the Senate on August 1, 2001, S. 1291 by United States Senators Dick Durbin (D- Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R- Utah), and has since been reintroduced several times but has failed to pass.

Emmanuel House

Emmanuel House is a non-for-profit organization that aims to break the cycle of working class poverty. It serves impoverished and working-class families, allowing them to begin saving money through a rent program and "Networked Savings". It has been regarded as a highly successful and innovative solution to working class poverty, and has received attention from people such as Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.The program allows families to live in a house owned by Emmanuel House and pay their usual fair rent fee, yet after 18 months the family is given back a year’s worth of rent as savings – in some cases, enough to allow them to put a down payment on their first home.Home ownership has long been known as a “pathway out of poverty”, and families that own homes are as much as twelve times more wealthy than rent-paying families after a decade.

Illinois's 20th congressional district

The 20th Congressional District of Illinois was a congressional district for the United States House of Representatives in Illinois. It was eliminated as a result of the 2000 Census. It was last represented by John Shimkus who was redistricted into the 19th District.

Jim Oberweis

James D. Oberweis (born June 10, 1946) is an American businessman, investment manager and politician from the state of Illinois. The owner of Oberweis Dairy in North Aurora near Chicago, he is currently a member of the Illinois Senate, representing the 25th district since January 2013.

Oberweis sought the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2002 and 2004 and the Republican nomination for Governor of Illinois in 2006. He was the Republican nominee for Illinois's 14th congressional district in a March 2008 special election and the November 2008 general election, losing on both occasions to Democrat Bill Foster. He was first elected to the Illinois Senate in 2012. He ran for the U.S. Senate again in 2014, losing to Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin.

Kluczynski Federal Building

The Kluczynski Federal Building is a skyscraper in the downtown Chicago Loop located at 230 South Dearborn Street. The 45-story structure was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1974 as the last portion of the new Federal Center. It is 562 feet (171 m) tall and stands on the site previously occupied by the Chicago Federal Building by the architect Henry Ives Cobb. It was named in honor of U.S. Congressman John C. Kluczynski, who represented Illinois's 5th congressional district from 1951 to 1975 after his death that year. This is one of three buildings by van der Rohe in the Federal Center Plaza complex: the others are the US Post Office (Loop Station) and the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse.

The Kluczynski Building is constructed of a steel frame and contains 1,200,000 sq ft (110,000 m2) of space. The exterior is sheathed in bronze-tinted glass set into bright aluminum frames. Beneath the windows are steel spandrel panels painted flat black and windows are separated horizontally by steel mullions of projecting steel I-beams also painted black. The two-story lobby is recessed allowing for a colonnade or pilotis to encircle the building at street level. The interior walls and floors of the lobby are covered in granite which entends to the plaza. The lobby contains several commemorative tablets which were removed from the previous building.

The entire complex is based on a 28 ft (8.5 m) grid pattern so that seams of the granite pavers in the plaza extend into the building lobbies and up the sides to create unity among the three structures. The Center resembles Mies' earlier Toronto-Dominion Centre and was expanded in 1991 with the addition of the 28-story Metcalfe Federal Building to the south across Jackson Boulevard.

Alexander Calder's sculpture Flamingo, a 53-foot (16 m) red steel sculpture, was unveiled on the plaza October 24, 1974. The sculpture was conserved and restored in 1998. The plaza is also the site of a weekly farmers' market during the spring and summer seasons, open to the community.

Federal agencies in the building include the Air Force Recruiting Service, the Department of State Passport Agency, Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, Office of Personnel Management, Consumer Product Safety Commission, General Services Administration and offices for both the U.S. senators from Illinois, Richard "Dick" Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.Following his election as president on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama set up transitional offices in the building, prompting heightened security measures in the surrounding area.

Paul Findley

Paul Findley (born June 23, 1921) is a former United States Representative from Illinois, who represented its 20th District. A Republican, he was first elected in 1960. Findley lost his seat in 1982 to current United States Senator Dick Durbin. He is a cofounder of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington, D.C. advocacy group. He resides in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Senate Taiwan Caucus

The bipartisan United States Senate Taiwan Caucus focuses exclusively on improving American-Taiwanese relations. It currently has 27 members. Its counterpart in the House is the House Taiwan Caucus.

United States Senate Committee on Appropriations

The United States Senate Committee on Appropriations is a standing committee of the United States Senate. It has jurisdiction over all discretionary spending legislation in the Senate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is the largest committee in the U.S. Senate, with 31 members in the 115th Congress. Its role is defined by the U.S. Constitution, which requires "appropriations made by law" prior to the expenditure of any money from the Treasury, and is therefore, one of the most powerful committees in the Senate.[1] The committee was first organized on March 6, 1867, when power over appropriations was taken out of the hands of the Finance Committee.[2]The chairman of the Appropriations Committee has enormous power to bring home special projects (sometimes referred to as "pork barrel spending") for his or her state as well as having the final say on other senators' appropriation requests.[3] For example, in fiscal year 2005 per capita federal spending in Alaska, the home state of then-Chairman Ted Stevens, was $12,000, double the national average. Alaska has 11,772 special earmarked projects for a combined cost of $15,780,623,000. This represents about four percent of the overall spending in the $388 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 passed by Congress.[4]Because of the power of this committee and the fact that senators represent entire states, not just parts of states, it is considered extremely difficult to unseat a member of this committee at an election - especially if he or she is a subcommittee chair, or "Cardinal". Since 1990, four members of this committee have gone on to serve as Senate Majority Leader for at least one session of Congress: Tom Daschle (committee member August 12, 1991 - December 10, 1999; Senate Majority Leader January 3–20, 2001 and June 6, 2001 - January 3, 2003), Bill Frist (committee member April 17, 1995 - December 29, 2002; Senate Majority Leader January 3, 2003 - January 3, 2007), Harry Reid (committee member August 13, 1989 - December 23, 2006; subcommittee chair March 15, 1991 - December 24, 1994 and June 11, 2001 - December 22, 2002; Senate Majority Leader January 3, 2007 - January 3, 2015), Mitch McConnell; Senate Majority Leader January 3, 2015 – present.

United States Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration (also called the Senate Rules Committee) is responsible for the rules of the United States Senate, administration of congressional buildings, and with credentials and qualifications of members of the Senate, including responsibility for dealing with contested elections.

The committee is not as powerful as its House counterpart, the House Committee on Rules as it does not set the terms of debate for individual legislative proposals, since the Senate has a tradition of open debate.

Some members of the committee are also ex officio members of the Joint Committee on Printing.

United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, informally the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a standing committee of 22 U.S. Senators whose role is to oversee the Department of Justice (DOJ), consider executive nominations, and review pending legislation.The Judiciary Committee's oversight of the DOJ includes all of the agencies under the DOJ's jurisdiction, such as the FBI. It also has oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Committee considers presidential nominations for positions in the DOJ, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the State Justice Institute, and certain positions in the Department of Commerce and DHS. It is also in charge of holding hearings and investigating judicial nominations to the Supreme Court, the U.S. court of appeals, the U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade. The Standing Rules of the Senate confer jurisdiction to the Senate Judiciary Committee in certain areas, such as considering proposed constitutional amendments and legislation related to federal criminal law, human rights law, immigration, intellectual property, antitrust law, and internet privacy.

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