Durbin Slams Senate Republicans for Rushing Through Supreme Court Nomination Instead of Focusing on Bipartisan COVID-19 Pandemic Relief

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) single-minded focus on rushing through President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court instead of focusing on the urgent needs of the American people, including comprehensive bipartisan legislation to respond to the grave public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yesterday, the U.S. set a single-day record of more than 85,000 new COVID-19 cases.  Today, Illinois reported a record 6,161 new COVID-19 cases.

“We’re embroiled over a political controversy on a Supreme Court nominee instead of focusing on the deadly situation that is going on across our nation,” Durbin said.  “…clearly that is not a priority for Senator McConnell and Senate Republicans.  The priority is not the millions who are at risk.  The priority is not the hundreds who are dying.  The priority is one Supreme Court nominee.  And so we are bound to spend five straight days on that issue and not a minute of that time dealing with COVID-19.  How do you explain that to the American people?”

During his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin slammed Senate Republicans’ reversal on filling a Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential election year and argued it is a thinly-veiled effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA) after numerous failed attempts to undo the law in Congress.  Durbin emphasized the dangerous repercussions of filling this judicial vacancy without voters’ input as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the fate of the law just one week after the November 3, 2020, election. 

“They [Republicans] are bound and determined to fill that vacancy on the Court before November 10.  Why November 10?  Because that’s the day the Court takes up the oral arguments on the future of the Affordable Care Act.  And if she [Judge Amy Coney Barrett] is not in her black robe listening to that argument, by tradition she can’t vote on whether to eliminate it or not,” Durbin said.  “It directly relates to this pandemic, the opportunity for people across this country to have the coverage they need.”

Durbin also shared the health care story of a constituent, Susan Sullivan Danenberger of New Berlin, Illinois.  Susan is a fifth generation farmer and winemaker who works at her family vineyard.  She is also a two-time cancer fighter with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. 

Susan has been through a gauntlet of medical procedures, treatments, and complications in recent years: a double mastectomy, radiation, IV chemo, pulmonary embolisms, lung infections, and more.  Her oral chemo medications alone have cost her thousands of dollars per month, with insurance.  As a business owner, Susan offers insurance to her employees.  She was relieved to learn when opening her new health policy that the ACA guarantees her coverage, despite her pre-existing condition, and allows her 23-year-old son to be on her plan. 

“Here’s what she said to me, ‘Most of the time, I feel driven.  Making wine and running a winery is more than just my job, it’s my purpose.  I am more scared than I pretend to be, and that is how I make it through, I pretend that everything is okay.  But this year, it is harder to pretend that everything is going to be okay.  I am worried about the future.  I am worried about money.  I am worried that I won’t be able to afford to fight cancer.  I am worried about taxes, health insurance changes, and being at the mercy of the insurance companies.’  For Americans like Susan, with a family, a business, and pre-existing conditions, there is so much at stake with this case pending before the Supreme Court,” Durbin said.  “She just can’t afford for this Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act.  Where will she turn?”

During his floor speech, Durbin asked to go into legislative session in order to consider the following House-passed bills that are stuck in Senator McConnell’s legislative graveyard: 

  • American Dream and Promise Act, legislation to establish a path to citizenship for Dreamers and immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED);
  • SHIELD Act, legislation to prevent foreign interference in elections;
  • Helping MOMS Act of 2020, legislation to enable Medicaid to provide coverage for low-income mothers for up to one year, compared to the current limit of 60 days;
  • Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act of 2020, legislation to help address maternal health gaps and disparities in rural communities; and,
  • Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, legislation to prevent, combat, and investigate sexual assault and violence against women and support critical victims’ services.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.