ENG: Richard Joseph "Dick" Durbin (born November 21, 1944) is the senior United States Senator from Illinois and the Senate Majority Whip, the second highest position in the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate.
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 U.S. 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 assumed his current title when the Democratic Party obtained a majority in 2007. As a member of the Democratic leadership, he has a record as one of the most liberal members of Congress.
Durbin was born in East St. Louis, Illinois 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 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. 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.
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.
In November 1998, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle appointed Durbin to the role of Assistant Democratic Whip. Election of 2004, 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. 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 the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.In 2000, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore listed Durbin as his possible running mate and candidate for Vice President of the United States. Gore ultimately selected Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.When Majority Leader Harry Reid faced a difficult reelection 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 fundraising prowess. Reid's reelection victory, however, rendered such speculation moot.
Durbin is one of the most liberal members of Congress. Mother Jones has called him a "top Senate liberal." 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.
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 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.
Durbin authored the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, legislation that has corrected some of the imbalance in cocaine sentencing. He 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 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.
In 2007, speaking as Senate Majority Whip, Durbin went on record as stating that "It’s time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. "In 2010, Durbin cosponsored and passed from committee the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, a bill that aims to combat media piracy by blacklisting websites though many opposed to the bill argue that it violates First Amendment rights and promotes censorship.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.
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.
Durbin and his wife Loretta 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.
June 8th, 2011