Durbin: Senate Democrats Are Ready To Negotiate And Work In Good Faith For A Better Future For All Americans

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin reflects on the many accomplishments from the 117th Congress thanks to Democratic leadership; condemns House Republicans’ policies that will hurt our country

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) highlighted how the many legislative accomplishments of the last Congress improved the lives of Americans.  He noted that while many of the achievements of the 117thCongress passed with the support of President Biden and Congressional Democrats, other historic victories were bipartisan.  He called on Senators of both parties to make the new Congress, which started its legislative work today, equally productive. 

Durbin began his speech by showing the stark contrast between the start of the 116th Congress when we were in one of the longest-ever federal government shutdowns thanks to former President Donald Trump and two years ago at the start of the 117th Congress.

“It was day 33 of a 35-day shutdown – a shutdown caused by President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign any budget that did not include billions of dollars he wanted to build his ‘big, beautiful’ wall on the southern border,” said Durbin. “That dysfunction and that government shutdown cost our economy billions of dollars.  And it shook the confidence of many – in this country and its future – in America’s ability to do the basics. Fast-forward, to the start of the last Congress, two years ago.  The three newest members of the Senate had just been sworn in, giving America only the second 50/50 Senate in its history.  It was a time of crises and division.  The deadliest public health emergency in a century and the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression and then a violent attack on the Capitol by an insurrectionist mob. The doubters said a 50/50 Senate was guaranteed gridlock.  We proved them wrong.”

Durbin went on to condemn the new Republican MAGA majority in the House for the chaos they created when electing a Speaker.  It took 15 votes over four days to elect U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker of the House.  On the same day, he noted, President Biden and the Republican Leader, Senator McConnell, spoke together at a major bridge that connects Covington, Kentucky, to Cincinnati, Ohio.  The bridge has needed repairs for years, and will get the repairs now because of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed in the 117th Congress.

Durbin went on to highlight the many other accomplishments from last Congress.  These legislative accomplishments include the CHIPS and Science Act – legislation to supercharge America’s microchip industry and bring high-tech manufacturing back to the U.S; the bipartisan PACT Act – to help millions of veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances during their military service; and the Inflation Reduction Act, which capped the price of insulin for seniors at $35 dollars a month; and for the first time ever, Medicare can negotiate prescription drug prices.  In the 117th Congress, the Senate also reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act and delivered a historic 700 million COVID shots. America’s economy created 11 million jobs – the strongest job-creation record in history.  The nation’s unemployment rate is near a 50-year low. 

The Senate also confirmed 97 outstanding new Article III judges – including the first Black woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

During his speech, Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, also highlighted the United States’ continued support for Ukraine following Putin’s unjustified war.

“Yesterday I was at a meeting in an area known as Ukrainian village in the city of Chicago,” Durbin continued. “It was a gathering not only of proud Ukrainians who were determined to do everything they could to help their friends and relatives back in Ukraine fight off Putin's invasion but also a lot of others… I am proud that the United States is leading this effort. We must continue to.”

While progress has been made, Durbin reflected on legislative priorities he hopes will pass in the 118th Congress, particularly to fix our broken immigration system by securing the border, protecting Dreamers, and providing legal pathways to live and work in the United States.

“Over the last week, I've visited with some of the migrants who were bussed into Chicago and talked to them about their families and what they face,” said Durbin. “If there's anyone who thinks that they are trying to gain the system in America, they ought to talk to them.  They're ready to go to work.  And we need to make sure that is done in a proper fashion.”

Following the horrific mass shootings last year in Highland Park, Illinois; Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and so many other communities, Congress passed the most significant gun safety law in nearly 30 years.  

“But the horrific shooting that killed 11 and wounded nine more this past weekend at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California, is another terrible reminder that more work needs to be done for gun safety.  The Lunar New Year shooting was the 33rd mass shooting in America so far this month.  Last year there were 600 mass shootings… It's madness.  It's sickening.  It is a uniquely American problem.  Try to explain it. You can't.  There are just too darn many guns in the hands of the wrong people,” said Durbin. 

Durbin went on to condemn House Republican’s threatened tactic of using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to force deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  Eight trillion worth of debt was racked up during the four years that Donald Trump was in the White House.  That includes nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts that mostly benefitted rich people and big corporations. According to the think-tank Third Way, if the U.S. defaults on its debt for the first time ever, workers with a 401(K) retirement account could lose $20,000.  A new 30-year mortgage could cost an additional $130,000. Borrowing would become harder and more expensive for everyone.  And the national debt could increase by $850 million.

“Republicans moved to raise the debt ceiling three times during the Trump Administration. Democrats supported them every time.  We don't want to turn America into a deadbeat nation. Defaulting on our national debt for the first time in history as the MAGA Republicans are threatening in the House would throw millions of Americans out of work,” said Durbin.

Durbin concluded, “So, as we begin this new Congress, we should ask ourselves:  What do we want history to say about this Senate and these next two years?  Will we be remembered for chaos – or hard-won consensus?  Will we work to heal the divisions in our nation, or deepen them?  Will we solve the problems that matter to the American people – or invent problems and stoke them for political advantage? My colleagues and I are ready to negotiate and work in good faith for a better future for all Americans.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.