Dick Durbin | St. Louis Public Radio

Dick Durbin

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(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.”

Gage Skidmore | Flickr

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.

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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.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

US Senator Dick Durbin is proposing a carrot-and-stick approach to encourage police departments in Illinois to trace guns used in crimes.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives runs the internet-based system known as eTrace, which can tell investigators who first purchased the gun and where it was manufactured.  But Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, says just half of the police departments or sheriff’s offices in Illinois use the  system. 

Durbin To Hold Hearing On 'Stand Your Ground' Laws

Jul 20, 2013
(via Wikimedia Commons/United States Senate)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)  says he will hold a hearing on so-called "stand your ground" laws. 

About 30 states have some form of the law, which gives a person the right to use deadly force to protect themselves if they feel their life is in danger. 

A Florida version of "stand your ground" played a role in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.  

 

Durbin is an Illinois Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- Capping months of intense negotiations and debate, the Senate approved a wide-ranging overhaul of the nation's immigration laws on Thursday, including a high-tech "border surge" and long-sought steps to build a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – In a key test for immigration reform legislation, the U.S. Senate on Monday cleared the way for a vote on a compromise “border surge” amendment by a convincing majority of 67 to 27 -- setting the stage for likely approval of the entire bill on Friday.

(via Wikimedia Commons/United States Senate)

The number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate said President Barrack Obama should release more statements on electronic intelligence gathering strategies and step up efforts to engage the public.

In the wake of controversial intelligence gathering activities spearheaded by the National Security Agency (NSA) being disclosed to the public, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also said it’s time for a larger conversation about privacy in the digital age.

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