One of Illinois’ leaders in Washington, D.C., spoke on campus Monday evening, discussing current issues and making concessions in today’s divisive political climate.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., gave a keynote speech at a talk called Cooperation and Compromise in Congress, an event at the Levis Faculty Center sponsored by the Civic Leadership Program and the Niagara Foundation.
Erica Mazzotti, graduate fellow with the civic leadership program and graduate student, took the initiative to plan the event for the program and reached out to Durbin’s office.
“I wanted it to focus on the crisis in Congress, the debt ceiling and how politics can get in the way of actual work getting done, especially at a federal level,” she said.
Durbin is currently the Senate majority whip and holds the second highest-ranking position in the Senate.
“I think that he is not only respected because of his rank, but he is a respected member because of his ability to do just what this event is about. He’s able to reach across party lines and to understand the opposition,” Mazzotti said.
Durbin took questions from students and discussed student loans and debit and credit card swipe fees.
President Barack Obama’s health care reform was an issue Durbin said he still stands behind. He tried to formulate a bipartisan plan within Congress when the issue “blew up” with Republicans.
“I can tell you, you cannot come to grips with the deficit of the United States of America, until you come to grips with rising health care costs,” he said.
Durbin said within the debate over health care reform, if someone was really serious about it, “you have to put everything on the table.”
“That kills me as a Democrat, to put Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid on the table, but I would rather be there, at the table, than outside the room … carrying a sign,” Durbin said.
Durbin also spoke about Obama’s current jobs plan and the need for solutions to help build the economy.
“We’ve had two votes in the last three weeks in Washington when we brought up the President’s jobs bill. We got no Republicans’ votes. It isn’t as if they have a competing plan, they don’t have a plan,” he said. “It’s time for us, I hope, and for some Republicans too, to step up and say, ‘What can we do together?’”
Shana Harrison, president of the Illini Democrats and junior in LAS, helped to plan the event. She said she thought the event was important to students to learn about bipartisanship and how to work with others from different political beliefs.
“There is no way we could accomplish anything unless there is some compromise and meeting in the middle,” she said.
Durbin said as a person on the progressive side of the political spectrum, there is a reason he has been sitting in on all of the deficit talks.
“We are in a dilemma, and we have to deal with the reality,” he said. “We cannot continue to borrow 40 cents for every dollar we spend. We have to get back where we are closer to (a balanced budget).”