Dick Durbin

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt meets with people Feb. 20 at Washington University's Alzheimer's Research Center in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The U.S. senators representing Missouri and Illinois are playing an active role in congressional efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., all voted for the popular Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act known as CARA.

Jonny Wade is to the left of Rep. Rodney Davis. Jonny's twin brother, Jacky Wade, is on the right in the striped shirt.
Rep.Rodney Davis' office

While the most prominent seat at Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech is likely to be the one left vacant in First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest box to remember victims of gun violence, several area lawmakers have invited constituents to join them for the historic event.

internet shopping
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Consumers may like the ability to shop online and avoid paying state and local sales taxes, and many online retailers may like the competitive advantage the arrangement provides them over “bricks and mortar” businesses across the country, but U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. says the situation has a significant price.

“It’s really not fair to say to that store down the block that’s paying rent and paying property taxes and collecting sales tax (that) we’re going to put them at a disadvantage to their Internet counterparts.”

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

In what some are calling a historic compromise, a broad spectrum of senators on Thursday announced support for sweeping changes in criminal sentencing laws.

The coaltion formed at a time when many Americans see Congress as dysfunctional, and lawmakers even within the same party at odds over national priorities.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, right, and Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons take part in a roundtable on heroin abuse on Monday in Granite City.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin provided a fairly blunt reply to the proposition that the War on Drugs failed.

“By some measure, it has failed,” said Durbin, D-Ill. “If the measure is the cost of drugs on the street, it has failed. But when we look at the individual lives saved, there are certainly heroic great stories to be told. But we have to be honest about what works and what doesn’t.”

Haitians or people of Haitian descent living and working in the Dominican Republic must have submitted paperwork to prove their legal residency by a June deadline or they will soon be deported, under a law to crack down on migrants.
Richie Diesterheft | Flickr

The U.S. will be monitoring the situation as thousands of Haitians leave or are deported from the neighboring Dominican Republic as it cracks down on migrants, according to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says St. Clair County's proposal for the NGA's relocation to Scott Air Force Base is better than those for three Missouri sites.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Monday he believes it would make “good sense” to locate the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency at Scott Air Force Base due to both sites’ work on cyber-security.

St. Clair County officials are hoping to lure the NGA to a 200-acre site on the base when the agency relocates from its current location in downtown St. Louis. The base is the only Illinois location being considered for the agency’s new facility alongside three other Missouri sites, including St. Louis’ north side.

Sen. Dick Durbin
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is pointing to recently released filings from Swiss agricultural giant Syngenta as proof that Monsanto is looking to move its “tax address” out of the United States in a move known as a “corporate inversion” in which U.S. companies move their headquarters out of the U.S. — on paper at least — to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

tylerdurden1 | Flickr

Updated 9:30 p.m. May 31 - WASHINGTON- The clock has run out on the government’s authority to collect bulk phone records and other information on Americans. The Senate adjourned Sunday night without approving a measure to either extend the existing law or replace it with a House bill containing what advocates said were reforms designed to address concerns over the bulk collection law, first exposed by former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden.

With news reports that Monsanto may be looking to acquire Swiss Company Syngenta AG, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the number two Democrat in the Senate, is urging the St. Louis area company not to move its tax address overseas, in a practice known as “inversion.”

Office of Sen. Durbin

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is backing New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to take the place of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the chamber’s top Democrat. Reid announced early Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. Because of his leadership role, Durbin had been seen as a possible contender.

Office of Sen. Durbin

At least half of all prison suicides are committed by inmates held in so-called solitary confinement, according to several state and national studies. 

While a first-of-its-kind report on segregation practices in federal prisons shows improvement, with the number of inmates held in solitary confinement on the decline. Still, said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “There’s still much more work to be done.”

Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

With federal prisons already more than 30 percent beyond their designed capacity, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons, an unlikely group of U.S. senators has come together to try to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., are joining up with U.S. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. When the group held a joint news conference last week, they joked and laughed, “There isn’t a moderate here, on either side.” 

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Just hours before the Senate confirmed Ashton Carter as defense secretary on a vote of 93 to 5, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., issued a brief statement saying he would oppose both Carter’s and attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

“After careful review, I’ve decided to vote against President Obama’s nominees for both the departments of defense and justice. Unfortunately, I believe both of these nominees will simply continue to uphold President Obama’s flawed agenda at these important agencies.”

Ray Howze/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon made it official Thursday when he announced that he'll be leading an agricultural trade mission to Cuba in March.

Last month, Nixon, a Democrat, ordered his Agriculture Department to explore trade opportunities with the island nation, following President Barack Obama's decision to normalize relations with the communist regime.  Nixon says Missouri's farmers and livestock owners have a lot to gain by doing business with Cuba.

Wikipedia

(Updated 1:30 p.m., Wed., Jan. 20 with remarks from U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.)

President Barack Obama ended his State of the Union address with a sweeping call for "better," less divisive politics, but the reaction to the speech fell along the usual partisan lines.

What fellow Democrats such as U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-University City, called “a smart, energetic agenda,’’  Republicans like U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, labeled “the same old, tired, Washington-based ideas.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's website

Bipartisanship appeared to be in unusually ample supply on the first day of the new Congress.  That’s not to say that Republicans and Democrats agreed on everything as the 114th Congress got underway -- they didn’t. But still there were moments of bipartisan camaraderie not seen on most days in Congress. 

One of the more significant individual displays of bipartisan friendship came in the Senate, where U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., escorted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill,, for Durbin’s swearing-in ceremony for his fourth Senate term.

Sen. Dick Durbin met with Alan Gross, a contract worker for the Agency for International Development, in Cuba in 2012. Gross had been imprisoned since 2009.
Provided by Sen. Durbin's office

In 2012, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., traveled to Cuba to meet with imprisoned AID worker Alan Gross, but he also carried a message from President Barack Obama to leaders in Havana. “I told them this president was genuinely committed to looking for the right opportunity to improve relationships with Cuba,” Durbin said.

In conveying that message Durbin carried the credibility of being a long-time friend of the president and a high-ranking member of the Senate. “And I told them one of the big problems of course was the American prisoner, Alan Gross.”

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

Were area members of Congress to sum up this session in a single word, that word would most likely be “Growler.”  The funding for 15 of Boeing’s high-tech E/A 18G Growlers, which are built in St. Louis, is included in the $1.1 trillion government funding package approved by the Senate over the weekend.

Support for the Growler is the one thing most frequently mentioned by Missouri lawmakers.  That bipartisan support helped secure nearly $1.5 billion to keep the Growler going through the end of 2017.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she learned a lot from her unsuccessful run for governor in 2004.
Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., joined a handful of other centrists-Democrats in voting against Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to be the caucus’ minority leader for the 114th Congress beginning in January. McCaskill said she made her decision in the wake of last week's election, which she said showed that Missouri voters want change.

Senate Democrats return to Washington Wednesday morning knowing that their time in the majority will expire in just a few weeks. 

The lame duck session starts Wednesday and ends before Christmas, with a Thanksgiving holiday in between. The new Congress, with its Senate Republican majority of 52 seats, starts shortly after the New Year. The House remains firmly in Republican hands.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro,
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

State Rep. Mike Bost rode the national Republican wave to victory Tuesday night, knocking off incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart to represent parts of the Metro East in Congress. 

Bost’s victory capped off a buoyant night for Republicans nationally and in the Land of Lincoln, where Republican Bruce Rauner unseated incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, won re-election.

File photo

For U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, more sanctions against Russia aren’t enough to demonstrate the United States’ fury over Thursday’s crash of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine.

The plane is believed to have been hit by a Russian-made missile fired by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.

Durbin and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., both believe that the bulk of the blame lies with “Putin’s effort to destabilize the Ukraine,’’ as Durbin put it.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin knows firsthand the difficulty in getting a minimum wage increase passed through a legislative body. 

The Illinois Democrat was unsuccessful in getting the U.S. Senate to increase the federal minimum wage this year. Even if Senate Republicans hadn’t filibustered that effort, it would likely have gone nowhere in the GOP-controlled House.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois’ higher education, business and political leaders are pledging cooperation for an effort to bring manufacturing jobs to the region. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, convened a day-long manufacturing summit at Mid-America Airport in Mascoutah. It was aimed at presenting a united front for southern Illinois to compete for manufacturing jobs.

(via Wikimedia Commons/United States Senate)

The Missouri Democratic Party has tapped U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to be the keynote speaker for the state party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, to be held June 7 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis.

Jason Rosenbaum/St. Louis Public Radio

The Air Force's top civilian official spent Tuesday morning at Scott Air Force Base with Illinois' political leaders. 

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk were among the officials who showed Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James around the Metro East military installation. It was the first time James visited the base since being confirmed by the U.S. Senate late last year. Illinois Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan were also on hand for James' visit.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois is joining President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats in an election-year push to bridge the pay gap between men and women.

Speaking on the Senate Floor Tuesday, Durbin called on his Republican colleagues to help pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“It says that women cannot be discriminated in the workplace simply because they are women,” he said.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has been supportive of how the U.S. froze bank accounts and barred visas of Russian officials over that country’s action in Ukraine.  

But the Illinois Democrat wants to send a stronger message to Russia by taking initial steps to admit the Republic of Georgia into NATO.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Just before residents of Crimea voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, a group of U.S. senators visited Kiev. They were showing support for Ukraine's new government, and also offering U.S. help. Among them was Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin. We reached him by phone in Chicago, and asked if the U.S. and Europe have to accept that Crimea is now part of Russia.

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