Undergraduate education: Georgetown University
Graduate education: Georgetown University
Dick Durbin was born and raised in East St. Louis, Ill., and resides in Springfield. He earned a bachelor's degree in foreign service and economics in 1966 and a law degree in 1969 from Georgetown University.
Durbin ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 1976 and lieutenant governor in 1978. He served as the parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate from 1969 to 1982, and as legal counsel to Lt. Gov. Paul Simon from 1969 to 1973.
He was elected to the U.S. House in 1982, serving until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.
Durbin and his wife, Loretta Schaefer, have three children.
Dick Durbin continues to play a leading role on national issues and serve as a surrogate for President Barack Obama while also pursuing more parochial matters.
As a member of the "Gang of Six," Durbin tried to come up with a deficit-cutting plan that could win bipartisan support. When that failed, he backed a compromise that averted a government default in 2011 by appointing a "supercommittee" to come up with a blueprint for reducing the deficit. Durbin was outspoken in his criticism of Republicans who were prepared to let the government default rather than accept any sort of compromise on the budget.
He was also an important advocate for Obama's legislation to provide health insurance for more people.
Durbin often appears on Sunday morning news shows to support Obama — for instance, questioning Mitt Romney's use of offshore bank accounts and other "tax avoidance schemes." And when Obama announced a policy of not deporting young illegal immigrants who had spent most of their lives in the United States, Durbin called it "an historic humanitarian moment."
Durbin advocates for letting states require major Internet retailers to pay sales taxes. He also has pushed local officials in East St. Louis, the city where he was born, to limit hours for nightclubs in an effort to reduce violence.
Durbin served 14 years in the House, where fighting smoking was one of his top priorities. "I'm the No. 1 enemy of the tobacco industry," said Durbin, who was 14 when his father, a two-pack-a-day smoker, died of lung cancer.
Durbin pushed through a ban on smoking on airplanes and used his position on the Appropriations Committee's agriculture subcommittee to fight tobacco subsidies. More recently, he has opposed the link between sports and tobacco, pressing Major League Baseball to limit players' public use of chewing tobacco.
As a Catholic, Durbin started out as an all-out opponent of abortion. But he switched and now supports abortion rights. Durbin said he made the announcement only after heart-to-heart talks with two pregnant teens, one a victim of rape and the other of incest.
After Paul Simon retired from the Senate, Durbin replaced him and rose quickly.
In 2001, Durbin joined the Senate leadership team as assistant Democratic floor leader. In 2004, he was elected minority whip. In 2006, when the Democrats gained control of the Senate, Durbin was elected majority whip, making him the chamber's No. 2 Democrat.
"As they say downstate, any jackass can kick down a barn door but it takes a carpenter to build one, and I want to be a builder," Durbin said.
On the war in Iraq, Durbin was one of 23 senators to vote against giving authority to President George W. Bush to use military force, if necessary, to disarm Iraq in 2002.
Committee Assignments: Appropriations; Judiciary; Rules and Administration; Foreign Relations
American Conservative Union Rating: 0
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 95
Recent winning percentages for office currently held: 68% (2008), 60% (2002).
(Last updated by Christopher Wills on July 9, 2012.)