Saturday, January 07, 2006

Senator Durbin: A Democratic Response to President Bush

Clarifications and revisions made, and links added at 5:15 pm on Saturday.

Jeff Berkowitz: Senator, [on] what level of income would you raise taxes? Would it be on people with over $100,000 [in annual income]? Over $150,000 [in annual income]? What would be the number where you would raise taxes?

Senator Dick Durbin [D-IL]: Well, I think what you would have to do is look at that honestly. If you have two people, for example, today, who are teachers, or who are firemen, or policemen—I mean $150,000 family income, $120,000 that’s, I don’t buy it; I mean, people work hard to do that, to try to pay for an expensive home and a lot of debt in the process. You know, that is where I start seeing—I start drawing the line, around $150,000 and up. I think the tax cuts from that point forward should be diminished dramatically. Certainly, by the time you get up to a million dollars, those folks are doing quite well, thank you. And, I think that we ought to be more sensible in how we apportion these tax cuts.
Senator Dick Durbin, the senior senator from the State of Illinois, answering questions at a press conference held at 2:30 pm on Friday, January 6, 2006. The press conference was held in the Federal Building, 230 South Dearborn, in a room near the Senator’s Chicago office.

The press conference was called to respond to the remarks made by President Bush at an Economic Club of Chicago lunch program on Friday. The lunch program, attended by almost two thousand, was held at the Chicago Hilton Towers and Hotel on South Michigan Avenue in the Loop. Senator Durbin, with others, flew with the President to Chicago from Washington, DC on Air Force One-- and the Senator, with others, spoke to the President at that time. Senator Durbin also attended the Economic Club of Chicago program.

I believe Senator Durbin may also have flown with the President in one of three Heliocopters used to transport the President and his entourage [including Speaker Hastert] from Chicago's O'Hare airport to the Loop [The use of three helicopters also serves to provide decoys to those who might seek to harm the President].

The Question and Answer session of the press conference ran about eleven minutes and included about ten questions, covering the subjects, below [Senator Durbin’s answers summarized in brackets]:

-- The Senator’s views as to the alternatives to President Bush’s proposal to make the Bush 2001 and 2003 legislated tax cuts permanent [Ed. Note: they are due to expire in 2008] (asked by a local Fox TV, WFLD, reporter) [Durbin alternative- Don’t make them permanent].

-- What level of income recipients should face higher taxes than is currently the case (asked by Public Affairs' Jeff Berkowitz) [Families with incomes of $150,000 and above].

-- The Senator’s general thoughts about the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings scheduled to start on Monday regarding Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court (asked by Bill Cameron) [Senators need to know if Judge Alito will tip the scales of justice in one direction or another; Senator Durbin sits on the Judiciary Committee]

-- What Senator Durbin would have to learn at the confirmation hearings for him to support the Judge’s confirmation (asked by Public Affairs’ Jeff Berkowitz) [a belief that the right to privacy can be found in the U. S. Constituion.(Ed. note: Based on prior statements of Senator Durbin, he would most likely want to see Judge Alito include abortion rights within a constitutional privacy right. However, at Friday's press conference, Senator Durbin did not connect a constitutional privacy right to abortion rights; Instead, he placed the right to privacy in the context of making Terry Schiavo type decisions and he specifically related the discussion of privacy to Ariel Sharon's current critical and unstable health condition.].

-- Is Gov. Blagojevich similar to President Bush in that they are both pushing debt onto future generations (Asked by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Pearson). [Didn’t quite answer, other than to say that he doesn’t know if Blago’s policies were right or wrong, but he did inherit a large deficit and he has balanced the budgets, kept his pledge not to raise the sales and income tax, and has raised fees].

-- Is Senator Durbin supporting Gov. Blagojevich over challenger Edwin Eisendrath in the Democratic Primary [Yes].

--Is the President correct in his assertion that we are on track to cut the annual federal budget deficit in half by 2009? [No]

-- Did Jack Abramoff, who spread a lot of money around, make political contributions to you? (Local Fox reporter) [No, never saw the man and never got any contributions from him or his wife. But Senator Durbin said he did get contributions from two Indian tribes that Abramoff represented and also from the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, of which Abramoff was a member (as was Mayor Daley confidant and former Daley Administration power broker Victor Reyes). Senator Durbin now has given all of those contributions to charity].

-- How much of a problem will Abramoff be for pols in Washington, DC (Local Fox reporter). [Will be a big problem for pols (implying in his answer much more so for Republicans than Democrats), and net result may be some “significant reforms in way we do business.”]

-- Did Senate minority leader Harry Reid receive contributions from Abramoff and will he return them. [No, he did not get contributions from Abramoff (perhaps Senator Reid got from entities Abramoff represented and no, Senator Reid does not plan to return the contributions or give them to charity](For additional conflicting views among Democrat U. S. Senators (In this instance, from the same state)on how to handle contributions from entities represented by or associated with Jack Abramoff, see here).

Prior to answering the questions, above, Senator Durbin spent about fourteen minutes at the press conference (a) delivering remarks on some of the issues covered by President Bush in his remarks to the Economics Club of Chicago and (b) eliciting testimonials from a recent law school graduate regarding the difficulties of students paying back college loans and two small businessmen regarding the problems faced by small businesses who provide their employees with healthcare insurance.
"Public Affairs" Show Host and Executive Legal Recruiter Jeff Berkowitz can be reached at