Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a “Casablanca” moment when he complained Tuesday that Democrats had “chosen a totally partisan path” in trying to speed President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief plan through Congress.
In an interview Wednesday with “Chicago Tonight,” the senior senator from Illinois and Senate majority whip made clear that he felt McConnell’s objections were disingenuous and hypocritical.
“Sen. McConnell had a ‘Casablanca’ moment, shocked, absolutely shocked at the notion that anyone would go through the process of reconciliation and just have one party voting on the side of passage. He did it himself,” said Durbin. “ And they did it to give the tax breaks to people on higher income categories, that was part of his package for reconciliation.”
Asked if he supported getting rid of the filibuster rule to prevent Republicans from blocking the implementation of Biden’s legislative agenda, Durbin said he had an “open mind” on the issue.
“What I support is getting something done. Over the last four years the Senate has been out to lunch. And the big problems facing America, we didn’t even bring legislation to the floor. The House of Representatives passed hundreds of bills and Sen. McConnell would not take up one of them. They just sat there, bill after bill,” Durbin said. “So, I want to get things done. And if we can do it with the filibuster so be it. And if we have to look at the filibuster and its future in the Senate, I’m willing to do that too. I’ve got an open mind, but I want the Senate to produce for America.”
While praising the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed in helping researchers develop a vaccine quickly, Durbin said “they did not follow through” with a vaccine distribution plan.
“When (Biden) became president there was more vaccine in the freezers than there was in the arms of Americans — we’re changing that,” he said.
He also said that although Gov. J.B. Pritzker was doing “a good job” of rolling out the vaccine in Illinois, more needs to be done and many Illinoisans have told him they’re frustrated by the slow pace of the distribution.
“It’s a hard job, but we’ve got to keep the pressure on him (Pritzker), he’s got to do more,” Durbin said. “We’ve got to have a better system of producing, distributing and actually injecting these vaccinations into the arms of people in Illinois.”
With former President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial set to begin next week, Durbin said he was adamant that it should establish a clear record of what happened as a lesson to future generations and to debunk conspiracy theories blaming the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“I want to make sure that there’s a record of what actually happened,” Durbin said. “And the reason is very basic: 40% of Trump’s followers refuse to believe that he had anything to do with it or that his supporters had anything to do with it. They blame Antifa and Black Lives Matter and other groups you’ve never heard of. That kind of notion has to be debunked by fact. We’ve got to make a record in this impeachment trial so that future generations know this outrageous day in the history of the Capitol.”
Responding to remarks on Fox News by South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham that it would “open up a Pandora’s Box” if Democrats insisted on calling witnesses for the impeachment trial, Durbin noted that the senators themselves were “eyewitnesses” to the assault on the Capitol.
“This is a different kind of trial. We have a hundred senators who are on the jury, but also a hundred senators who were eyewitnesses,” said Durbin. “We were in the Senate chamber when the mob came rushing through the Capitol. We were evacuated from the chamber. It isn’t as if we need to be reminded — we’ll never forget that day as long as we live.”
Durbin also touted his long-standing support for a Domestic Terrorism Act that would provide more resources for state and local governments to track and combat hate groups amid the growth of white supremacist organizations in recent years.
“I have introduced legislation calling on the Department of Justice to stop just looking at international terrorism, look at America born-and-bred terrorism. That’s what we saw on Jan. 6 right here in Washington, D.C.,” Durbin said. “I want to keep America safe whether the terrorism is imported or homegrown.”