Understanding the Committee Structure

Due to the high volume and complexity of its work, the Senate divides its tasks among 20 committees, dozens of subcommittees, and 4 joint committees.

Standing committees generally have legislative jurisdiction. Subcommittees handle specific areas of the committee's work. Select and joint committees generally handle oversight or housekeeping responsibilities.

Each party assigns its own members to committees, and each committee distributes its members among its subcommittees. The Senate places limits on the number and types of panels any one senator may serve on and chair (for detailed information about the Senate committee structure click here).

Committee Assignments

Senator Durbin serves on the following committees in the 117th Congress. He is Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Appropriations Committee

Senator Durbin is the first Illinois Senator in more than a quarter century to serve on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, a position that allows him to advocate for federal priorities important to Illinois. In his service with the committee, he has helped secure funding for everything from veterans care and schools to highways and health care clinics.  In 2013 and 2014, Senator Durbin served as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, and today is the Subcommittee’s Ranking Democrat.  The Defense Appropriations Subcommittee controls nearly half of the nation’s annual discretionary budget and is important for Illinois, home to Naval Station Great Lakes, the Rock Island Arsenal, and Scott Air Force Base.

Rules and Administration

Serving on the Rules Committee since 2007, Senator Durbin has worked to increase access to voting and improve the election process, including through efforts to strengthen our election security in the aftermath of the Russian government’s attacks on our election system in 2016. Senator Durbin has also supported efforts to improve and strengthen Congressional transparency and ethics standards, as well as the policies and procedures available to victims of harassment and discrimination in Congress.


Senator Durbin is currently the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has served on the Committee since 1997. Senator Durbin became the founding Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, the first standing body of the Senate focused on human rights, in 2007.  In January 2011, the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction expanded to include constitutional and civil rights issues and was renamed the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. As Chairman, Senator Durbin convened hearings and worked with colleagues to modernize human rights law, examine human rights abuses in our criminal justice system, and the role of American technology companies in promoting global internet freedom. In 2015, Senator Durbin served as the Ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee. In 2017, Senator Durbin became the top Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, and remains in that position today.

Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Senator Durbin joined the Committee on Agriculture, Rules, and Forestry this year for the 116th Congress. The Committee’s work centers on helping to establish, guide, and examine agricultural policies in the United States. This includes maintaining a strong safety-net for family farms, trade, food safety, nutrition, and conservation. Illinois is one of the top agriculture states in the nation, and Senator Durbin pushes for Illinois agricultural priorities that strengthen the economy and rural communities across the state.