U.S. Senator from Illinois
Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, is the 47th U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois and the first Illinois senator to serve on the powerful U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in more than a quarter of a century. He is the state’s senior senator and chairman of the bipartisan Illinois delegation.
Elected to the U.S. Senate on November 5, 1996, Durbin filled the seat left vacant by the retirement of his long-time friend and mentor, U.S. Senator Paul Simon. In addition to the Appropriations Committee, Durbin serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration.
In the 107th Congress, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has reappointed Durbin to the Senate’s Democratic leadership team, where Durbin serves as Assistant Democratic Floor Leader and as a member of the Senate Democrats’ Steering and Coordination Committee.
Improving Health Care: The House author of landmark legislation to ban smoking on commercial airline flights, Durbin has taken to the Senate his fight to protect children from the harm caused by tobacco. For his work, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Lung Association.
Among his other health achievements, Durbin has worked successfully for increased federal funding to prevent childhood asthma, increase immunizations and expand medical research and has been a leader in promoting organ and tissue donation. In 1999, he was honored as the American Public Health Association’s “Legislator of the Year.”
Protecting Consumers: Consumer protection is high on Durbin’s list of priorities. Continuing an effort spurred by a meeting with the mother of a Chicago six-year-old who died after eating contaminated hamburger, Durbin has led the effort to consolidate and modernize the fragmented federal food safety system under one agency.
The Illinois senator also secured $2.8 million for the implementation of new safety standards to protect patients from injuries related to re-use of medical devices that are intended to be used only once.
Leading Gun Safety Efforts: Durbin has helped lead the fight for gun safety legislation to keep guns out of the hands of kids. He introduced bipartisan legislation to hold adults responsible if they fail to lock up their firearms and the weapons are subsequently taken by a child and used to kill or injure another person.
He also teamed up with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and local law enforcement agencies to launch an initiative to help Illinois become the first state to voluntarily trace every crime gun recovered from a crime scene. It was the first comprehensive statewide effort in Illinois to encourage all local law enforcement agencies to work with the ATF to better use crime-gun tracing information to reduce gun trafficking and other criminal endeavors.
Fighting for Farmers: Durbin has been a champion of Illinois farmers and has fought tirelessly to promote ethanol use. In 1998, he secured passage of a provision extending the ethanol tax incentive to 2007. In 2000, he worked with other members of the Illinois delegation for funding for the construction of an ethanol research pilot plant near the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville campus, a project he has promoted since the early 1990s.
Farm organizations across the state have recognized his consistent leadership and the Illinois Farm Bureau awarded him its “Friend of Agriculture” Award in 2000.
Durbin also continues to work for his legislation, which has been enacted in a series of small steps, to provide a 100 percent deduction of health insurance premiums for the self-employed. When he took up the cause, only 25 percent of a farmer’s health insurance costs could be deducted. In 2001, 60 percent can be deducted.
Working for Tax Cuts: In addition to the self-employed health insurance tax deduction, Durbin’s tax cut agenda includes tax credits for small businesses buying health insurance for their low-income workers, estate tax relief for family-owned small businesses and farms, tax incentives to promote charitable giving, and tax credits for long-term care insurance, child care and college tuition.
In 2000, Durbin served as Co-Chairman of the Democratic Platform Committee and also was Co-Chairman of the Atlantic Conference sponsored by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
Name Richard J. Durbin
Born November 21, 1944, in East St. Louis, IL
Parents William Durbin and Ann Durbin (nee Kutkin)
Education Assumption H.S., East St. Louis; Georgetown University, B.S., 1966 (Foreign Service, Economics); Georgetown University, J.D., 1969; Honorary Degree, Millikin University, 1994; Honorary Degree, Lincoln College, 1997
Family Married to Loretta Schaefer Durbin, three children and one grandchild
Residence Springfield, IL
First Elected November 4, 1982, to represent the 20th Congressional District
Committees Appropriations, Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Select Committee on Intelligence and Rules & Administration.
Appointed by the minority leader of the Senate.
*More of Senator Durbin's efforts to support Lincoln can be found on his website here.