Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois won reelection in Illinois Nov. 3 and will enter his fifth term in the U.S. Senate.
Durbin was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and currently serves as the Democratic whip, which is the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
“Now we have work to do to vanquish this virus and rebuild our broken economy,” Durbin said in a press release Nov. 3. “I am ready for the challenge.”
On Oct. 30, just a few days before the election, Durbin answered questions from The Phoenix via email about his hopes for his fifth term. Overcoming COVID-19, protecting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and confronting student loan debt were some of the topics on his list of priorities.
Durbin told The Phoenix his top priority in his fifth term will be tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Getting the virus under control and stimulating the economy is not an either-or proposition,” Durbin wrote. “We must do both. We need to develop and implement a national strategy to increase testing, personal protective equipment, and contact tracing.”
Durbin spoke out about testing earlier this fall when he called out the federal government for commandeering testing equipment meant for Loyola and Illinois State University, The Phoenix previously reported.
With the pandemic came stimulus checks — however, many college students didn’t receive any money from the government because they were considered dependents under their parents, The Phoenix reported.
Durbin said the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act in May, but he still hasn’t seen it on the Senate floor. This act would expand stimulus checks to dependents 17 and older and retroactively open up funding from the CARES act to dependents, meaning they could still apply for funds from the CARES Act that they may have missed out on.
“I’ve been calling on Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to bring this bill to the Senate floor for months, but he has refused,” Durbin wrote. “I’ll continue fighting to bring more relief for all Americans who need it.”
Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Another top issue for Durbin is healthcare. He said the ACA helped cut Illinois’ rate of uninsured people in half, and protected people with pre-existing conditions from discriminatory practices by health insurance companies.
The ACA also protects college students by ensuring they can stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26, Durbin said.
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) guarantees that young people can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26,” Durbin said. “If the ACA is eliminated — as the Trump Administration is trying to do in the middle of a pandemic – this protection, along with many others, would be taken away.”
Student Loan Debt
College students, Durbin said, have a lot at stake. He pointed toward immense amounts of student debt — which totals $1.6 trillion, according to Forbes.
“This debt is severely limiting young people’s life choices, with many Americans putting off buying a home and starting a family because of it,” Durbin wrote. “I’ve introduced legislation to address college affordability that expands access to Pell grants, requires student loan debt to be treated like other types of debt in bankruptcy, and holds accountable for-profit colleges that defraud students. But we won’t be able to make these changes unless we have the right people in office.”
Durbin said he has seen young people become more engaged with politics over the years, and he’s eager to have them weigh in on elections.
“Making your voice heard at the polls is one of the simplest and most important ways to engage in politics,” Durbin wrote. “I want more young people to have a say in the decisions that are made in our country – both nationally and locally.”