Politically Speaking: Sen. Durbin on the Senate Democrats' response to Trump

Dec 8, 2016
Originally published on December 8, 2016 4:18 pm

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are honored to welcome U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin to the program.

The Illinois Democrat serves as the Senate minority whip, making him the second most powerful member of his party next to the minority leader. He recently won another term in office in the 2014 election cycle.

After representing parts of southern Illinois in Congress for more than a decade, Durbin was elected to the Senate in 1996 by a wide margin. Even in a state like Illinois that’s occasionally voted Republicans into statewide offices, Durbin has never faced a particularly competitive battle for re-election.

Durbin is an East St. Louis native who worked in a meatpacking plant in high school. He’s often shown great interest in his hometown’s affairs, including his very public criticism of how former East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks ran the city. The Georgetown University graduate was a legal counsel to then-Lt. Gov. Paul Simon. Durbin eventually succeeded Simon into the U.S. Senate.

In addition to his role in Senate Democratic leadership, Durbin is a member of the Senate Appropriations and Judiciary Committees. He’ll have a vote in whether to confirm his colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, to be the next U.S. Attorney General during Judiciary Committee proceedings.

Here’s what Durbin said during the show:

  • Durbin believes that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is likely playing a larger role in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition, primarily because Pence possesses governmental experience. “As this team’s assembled, it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be departure from past policy,” he said. “Some of it you can expect as a Republican takes over from a Democrat. And some of it is a little on the edge – a little bit more extreme.”
  • He says he’s worked together in the past with Sessions, who is poised to become attorney general. But he’s also battled with Sessions on some issues as well. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin wants Sessions to lay out his views on overhauling criminal justice and immigration.
  • Durbin said that Trump's nominee for the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, may run into especially solid Democratic opposition in the coming weeks.
  • Since Republicans only have a narrow majority in the Senate next year, only three GOP senators would have to vote with Democrats against a Trump nominee to kill an appointment. “When things come out in the course of a hearing that make it a public and controversial issue, some Republicans may view this differently and join us if we are resisting a nominee,” he said.
  • Durbin says he’s encouraged by Trump’s public comments regarding “DREAMers,” the term given to young, undocumented immigrants. “These young people have grown up in our country and gone to the schools of our nation,” Durbin said. “Some of them to college. And they’re undocumented – they have no status in the United States. And what I’ve argued is if they finished their schooling and they have no criminal problems in their background, they should be given a chance for legal status.”

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Dick Durbin on Twitter: @SenatorDurbin

Music: “Head over Heels” by Tears For Fears

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