Richard Durbin

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U.S. Senator

Richard Durbin




Leadership: Senate Majority Whip
Committees: Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
(subcommittees and past assignments)

Candidates for the IL-Senate Class II Seat:
(Next election: 4 November 2008)

Confirmed: None so far
Considering: None so far
Rumored: None so far
Potential: None so far
Dropped-out: None so far
(more info and editing for the IL-Senate Class II Seat)
On the Web
Official website

Richard Joseph "Dick" Durbin is the Democratic senior U.S. Senator from Illinois. He is the Senate majority whip for the 110th Congress.


Record and controversies

Congressional scorecards

Click through the score to see the records of other members of Congress and full descriptions of the individual votes.

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Organization 2007 Scorecard
Score - Agree ratio
2008 Scorecard
Score - Agree ratio
American Civil Liberties Union not avail. not avail.
American Conservative Union not avail. not avail.
AFSCME not avail. not avail.
Americans for Democratic Action not avail. not avail.
Club for Growth not avail. not avail.
Drum Major Institute not avail. not avail.
Family Research Council not avail. not avail.
Information Technology Industry Council not avail. not avail.
League of Conservation Voters not avail. not avail.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People not avail. not avail.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce not avail. not avail.

Iraq War

Durbin voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

During the 2002 debate over the resolution giving President Bush the authority to use military force against Iraq, then House Minority Whip Durbin proposed an amendment (S.AMDT.4865) requiring that an "imminent" threat be present before turning to force. Opponents believed this language was too restrictive and that the president ought to have the right to use force in the face of a "continuing" threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The amendment failed 30-70.

Main article: Congressional actions on the Iraq War prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion

In 2003, during the debate over the FY2004 Defense Appropriations bill, Durbin introduced an amendment (S.AMDT.1277) to withhold $50 million in intelligence funding until President Bush submitted a report explaining how his administration handled the intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. Supporters argued that the measure would force the administration to be accountable for intelligence used to justify the war. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) joined every other Senate Republican in opposing the amendment, tabling the measure. He called it "nitpicking" by the Democrats and argued that "history shows clearly that Iraq has tried to acquire and did acquire nuclear capability in the past."

Main article: Congressional actions on the Iraq War following the 2003 U.S. invasion

On May 24, 2007, Sen. Durbin, along with Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) in the House, added a provision to the Iraq War funding bill that would stop the Bush administration from cutting Medicaid payments to hospitals for one year. The bill, including the Medicaid provision, passed overwhelmingly, 348-73.

Main article: Congressional actions to end the Iraq War in the 110th Congress
For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Student financial aid legislation

On January 4, 2007, Durbin introduced a Senate version of a House financial aid bill (S.1642), which was co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

Specifically, the bill would gradually decreases the rate on subsidized federal loans until 2011, when it hits a temporary low of 3.4 percent for a six-month period. Once that period is up, the rate will revert to 6.8 percent unless future legislation dictates otherwise. “Subsidized” loans are those for which the federal government pays the interest until the student leaves school.[1] The bill would raise fees on and cut profit margins for student lenders to offset the proposed cut. An estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated that the rate cut would cost $8.1 billion over a five year period. Increased loan fees would raise $2.7 billion and reducing guaranteed lender profit margins would raise another $2.5 billion over the same period, according to CBO. The remainder of the cost would be raised by reducing lender guarantees and retaining certain guaranty agency collections.[2]

Kennedy, however, announced plans to support a broader education bill which would halve interest rates on more than just Stafford loans, raise the Pell Grant limit to $5,100, cap federal student loan payments at 15 percent of a borrower's discretionary income, forgive the debt for those who stay in public service careers, and encourage schools to use the government's Direct Loan Program.[3]

Main article: Student financial aid legislation

Guantanamo Bay Statement

Sen. Durbin sparked controversy on June 14, 2005[4] on the Senate floor during debate when he compared interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Camp Xray described in an FBI report with those utilized by 20th century regimes including 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."

Republicans demanded an apology, claiming that comparing U.S. actions to the regimes Durbin included was insulting to both the US and to victims of genocide, and provided terrorists with propaganda. Durbin at first refused to apologize, replying that the White House should apologize for fostering an environment which permitted the alleged abuse to occur. [1] In the face of increasing criticism, including some from Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, on June 21, 2005 he apologized on the Senate floor, saying, "More than most people, a senator lives by his words ... occasionally words fail us, occasionally we will fail words." [2]

Despite the vocal backlash against Durbin's statements, many influential commentators did support him, as did much of his party's base. Notably, Andrew Sullivan, a supporter of the Iraq war, praised Durbin for raising serious moral issues about U.S. policy. [3] Other commentators (including popular liberal commentator Markos Moulitsas Zúniga of Daily Kos) actively condemned Durbin issuing any form of apology to his critics, saying that Durbin made a mistake in making himself (rather than detainment and torture concerns at GITMO) the focus of media coverage. [4] [5]

Tobacco issues

Richard J. Durbin has been a leading advocate for public health on tobacco issues in Congress, and an early proponent of allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco products. At a press conference on June 13, 1994, U.S. Rep. Durbin, Rep. Mike Synar (D-OK)and Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced that they would seek an amendment to the fiscal year 1995 Agriculture Appropriations bill to require Food and Drug Administration (FDA)regulation of tobacco. The Rules committee refused to allow the amendment.[6]

In May 1994, U.S. representative Martin Meehan wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno signed by six other congress members including Richard Durbin. The letter suggested the U.S. Department of Justice investigate whether the tobacco executives violated civil RICO laws or committed perjury before the Waxman subcommittee in 1994, when they testified that they did not believe nicotine was addictive.first pages


"Giving a veteran a flag is not a substitute for giving our vets the quality health care they were promised."—Dick Durbin, after he and other Democrats "noted that Republicans had voted down a Senate amendment increasing veterans' health spending the previous night." March 25, 2004.



Durbin was born November 21, 1944 in East St. Louis, Illinois. He earned a B.S. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in 1966. He served as 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 Center in 1969 and was admitted to the Illinois bar later that year.

Durbin was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and served from 1983 to 1997.

Senate Career

In 1996 Durbin became the Democratic candidate for the Senate to replace retiring Democratic incumbent, Paul Simon — the man that Durbin has called his mentor. The two men had been associated before; while Simon was Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, Durbin was his legal counsel.

Durbin won the election and was easily elected to a second term in 2002. Durbin has a reliably liberal voting record on most issues[7]. Among his legislative causes are asbestos regulation and environmental protection, particularly the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He has also been noted for his work, along with Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Schumer on judicial nominations, as well as his efforts to avert the closure of military bases in Illinois.

He is concerned with veterans' issues as well. In March 2004 he stated, "Giving a veteran a flag is not a substitute for giving our vets the quality health care they were promised" after he and other Democrats "noted that Republicans had voted down a Senate amendment increasing veterans' health spending the previous night." March 25, 2004.

On November 5th, 2004, Durbin announced that he had enough committed votes to become the Democratic Whip in the 109th Congress. Prior to this, he had been the Assistant Democratic Floor Leader, a position he was appointed to by former Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle. During his time as the minority whip, he has been noted for his sharp debating skills. His boss, Democratic leader Harry Reid, has said that Durbin is without a doubt the best debater in the entire Senate. Durbin has also been noted for his effectiveness at framing and articulating the Democrats' message, and many have said that he is an effective whip both because of his strategic skills but also because he has assiduously avoided any talk of higher aspirations. Indeed, most believe that Durbin plans to seek no higher elective office, and would only consider leaving the Senate if offered a cabinet appointment by a Democratic president.

In September 2006, Durbin joined Sen. Charles Schumer and other Senate Democrats in calling for a probe into hiring practices for the reconstruction of Iraq. The group alleged rampant Republican chronyism was leading to reconstruction workers too inexperienced to do their jobs properly. [8]

After the Democrats won the Senate in the 2006 midterm elections, Durbin was selected Senate majority whip for the 110th Congress.

2008 elections

This information was gathered by volunteer researchers as part of the Superdelegate Transparency Project on the superdelegates for the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. For more info see the Illinois superdelegate tracker or visit the STP homepage.

Before Hillary Clinton conceded the race, Richard Durbin, as a superdelegate, had endorsed Barack Obama for President.

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. For specific controversies, see this article's record and controversies section.

Top Contributors to during the 2008 Election Cycle
DonorAmount (US Dollars)
Simmons Law Firm$ 133,800
Jenner & Block$ 67,005
Cooney & Conway$ 64,000
Northrop Grumman$ 64,000
MacAndrews & Forbes$ 54,850
United Technologies$ 54,000
Comcast Corp$ 47,900
Boeing Co$ 46,500
Thornton & Naumes$ 40,400
Paul, Weiss et al$ 39,800
Source: The Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Note: Contributions are not from the organizations themselves, but are rather from
the organization's PAC, employees or owners. Totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.
Links to more campaign contribution information for Richard Durbin
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2008 election cycle Career totals

Committees and Affiliations

On the Board of Governors for the Partnership for Public Service.


Committees in the 110th Congress (2007-2008)

  • Senate Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on the District of Columbia
    • Subcommittee on Defense
    • Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services Education and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Legislative Branch - Ranking Minority Member
    • Subcommittee on Transportation Treasury the Judiciary and Housing and Urban Development
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    • Subcommittee on the Constitution Civil Rights and Property Rights
    • Subcommittee on Corrections and Rehabilitations - Ranking Minority Member
    • Subcommittee on Immigration Border Security and Citizenship
    • Subcommittee on Intellectual Property
    • Subcommittee on Technology Terrorism and Homeland Security
  • Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

More Background Data


DC office
  • 711 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
    Ph: 202-224-2152 Fax: 202-228-0400
    Webform email
District offices
  • 230 South Dearborn Street Suite 3892 Chicago, IL 60604
    Ph: 312-353-4952 Fax: (none entered)
  • 701 North Court Street, Marion, IL 62959
    Ph: 618-998-8812 Fax: (none entered)
  • 525 South Eighth Street, Springfield, IL 62703
    Ph: 217-492-4062 Fax: (none entered)
On the Web
Campaign office


Articles and Resources


  1. Carrie Sturrock, "Student loan interest rate cut set for vote in House today," SF Chronicle, January 17, 2007.
  2. John Godfrey, "Bush opposes Democrats' student-loan rate cut," MarketWatch, January 16, 2007.
  3. John Godfrey, "Bush opposes Democrats' student-loan rate cut," MarketWatch, January 16, 2007.
  4. Dick Durbin, "U.S. Senate Floor Statement by Sen. Dick Durbin on Guantanamo Bay," June 14, 2005.



Local blogs and discussion sites

Semantic data