Richard Joseph Durbin (born November 21, 1944) is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as U.S. Representative from Illinois's 20th congressional district from 1983 to 1987 and has served as U.S. Senator from Illinois since 1997. Durbin has been Senate Democratic Whip since 2005, the second-highest position in the Democratic leadership in the Senate, and Senate Majority Whip since 2021. He chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Born in East St. Louis, Illinois, he graduated from Assumption High School there before earning a B.S. from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. Durbin interned in Senator Paul Douglas's office during his senior year in college, working on Douglas's unsuccessful 1966 reelection campaign. After graduating from law school, Durbin started a law practice in Springfield. He was legal counsel to Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon from 1969 to 1972, and then legal counsel to the Illinois State Senate Judiciary Committee from 1972 to 1982. He unsuccessfully ran for the Illinois State Senate in 1976 and lieutenant governor in 1978. After losing the latter race, Durbin then worked as an adjunct professor at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine for five years while maintaining his law practice.
In 1982, Durbin won the Democratic nomination for the now-eliminated 20th congressional district and narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Paul Findley in the general election. Durbin was reelected six times, rarely facing serious opposition, and winning more than 55% of the vote in each election except 1994. In 1996, Durbin defeated Pat Quinn to become the Democratic nominee to replace the retiring incumbent, Senator Paul Simon and defeated Republican Al Salvi by 15 points. Durbin has been reelected in 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2020, each time by at least 10 points.
In November 1998, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle appointed Durbin Assistant Democratic Whip. After the 2004 election, Durbin became the Democratic Whip in the 109th Congress. Durbin served as Assistant Minority Leader from 2005 to 2007, when the Democrats became the majority party in the Senate. He then assumed the role of Assistant Majority Leader, or Majority Whip. In addition to his caucus duties, Durbin chairs the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.