Sen. Dick Durbin Calls DACA ‘The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time’

Melanie Arter | January 22, 2018 | 1:58pm EST
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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (Screenshot of C-SPAN video)

( - Speaking on the Senate floor Monday prior to a vote to break the filibuster and eventually reopen the federal government, Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called the issue of legalizing illegals under the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is “the civil rights issue of our time.”

“So many of you cast a vote that was very hard and very difficult, because you believed as I did that the issue of immigration, the issue of the Dreamers is the civil rights issue of our time. You stuck your necks out and said I’m willing to go on record even if it’s going to be hard to explain back home, and I will never forget that,” Durbin said prior to the vote.

Durbin said he’s seen something in the last few days that the Senate has not seen in years: “constructive bipartisan conversations and dialogue on the floor … about the future of this institution and what the Senate will be from this point forward.”

He thanked Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), “who’ve been working on this issue for so long to try to make a positive impact on this debate so that we can move forward.”

“I cannot tell my colleagues how many have come up to me from the other side of the aisle and said, ‘We’re with you on this issue. We want to help you get this done.’ Each of them has a little different take on what that means, but I do believe them, and I do believe we have this opportunity to move together,” the senator said.

It will be the first time some have seen the Senate return to a regular order and have a constructive debate, Durbin said.

“My last word is this: we have gathered the largest bipartisan group of senators to ever commit to moving forward on the Dream Act and immigration. We have a process. I want to thank Senator McConnell for explicitly saying today, it will be a level playing field. It will be open to both sides. We will move to the issue as you characterized it this morning of DACA and immigration. Thank you for doing that. I believe that that sets the stage for us to work together,” he said.

In a vote of 81 to 18, the Senate voted Monday after Durbin’s speech to invoke cloture and end the filibuster that prompted the government shutdown.

Prior to Durbin’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor and blamed the lack of consensus on the Republicans not knowing what President Donald Trump wanted.

“The reason why the Republican majority had such difficulty finding consensus is they could never get a firm grip on what the president of their party wanted to do. These days you never know who to deal with when it comes to the Republicans. The Republican leaders told me to work out a deal with the White House. The White House said work it out with Republican leaders on the hill,” Schumer said.

“Separately, President Trump turned away from not one, but two bipartisan compromises. Each would have averted this shutdown. Each would have led to a deal on the budget and health care and disaster aid and things like opioids and veterans and pensions and on immigration,” the senator said.

“My recent offer to the president was a generous one. I put his signature issue on the table in exchange for DACA, and still he turned away. President Trump’s unwillingness to compromise caused the Trump shutdown and brought us to this moment. The facts are well known,” he added.

According to White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Schumer offered to authorize the wall, but not fund it.

“Full funding for the wall, no,” Mulvaney told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” when asked whether Schumer offered to fully fund the border wall in a meeting with President Donald Trump on Friday.

“What Mr. Schumer offered the president was an authorization for funding, not an appropriation. I know that's deep down in the weeds for folks who don't live in Washington, D.C., but the difference between authorization and appropriation is like night and day,” he said.

“There was already authorization to build wall on the southern border that Chuck Schumer voted for in 2006. It hasn't been built because the money was never appropriated, it was never funded,” Mulvaney said. “And that's the same deal that Chuck Schumer offered on Saturday.”

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