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Durbin At Town Hall: 'Good News From Washington'

Cristian Jaramillo

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin greeted about 500 central Illinois residents at a town hall meeting in Bloomington Friday with the words, "There was good news from Washington today."

Durbin was referring to the failure of the U.S. House to pass a Republican-backed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

He told the crowd it's a myth that the federal government doesn't allow for purchase of insurance across state lines.

Credit Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT
IWU Professor Kye Ajayi asks Durbin a question during the town hall meeting.

"The federal government has no prohibition on your buying insurance across state lines. The problem comes in because insurance is regulated by the states," Durbin said.

He added the option probably isn't an attractive one anyway.

“And these insurance companies manufacture or devise these insurance policies based on geography and where you live, so they’ll start having an out of state policy. And what if I’m mistreated in Alabama? What if I’m not treated fairly? When this Illinois resident calls the insurance commissioner of Alabama, how much do you think they’ll pay attention to me?” Durbin questioned.

Durbin also decried what he called the astronomically high price of drugs. He also criticized President Trump, saying Trump’s destroying his presidency, "140 characters at a time."

Credit Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT
About 500 people packed Westbrook Auditorium at IWU for Durbin's town hall meeting

There were a few Republicans in the overwhelmingly Democratic crowd that interrupted Durbin numerous times with loud applause and gave him two standing ovations.


Adam Nielsen, a Republican and former member of the Normal Town Council, attended the meeting with his son, a Wesleyan student. He said he wanted to hear what Durbin had to say about the possibility of tax reform and trade policy, two subjects that came up only fleetingly in the discussion. 


He described the first months of the Trump administration as "exciting" and "interesting" and said  predictions of a flailing administration are premature at this point.


John Freese, retired Chief Judge of the McLean County Circuit Court, another Republican, said it was a unique opportunity to hear from senator who has been involved in most of the major issues facing the country. 


As for Republicans on the national scene, Freese said "there are a lot of differences right now within the party. There seems to be a split within the party between the legislative agenda and the president's agenda. They are not necessarily in sync." Freese said it is unclear currently where those differences will lead.


"Up until now, they have been an opposition party. Now it's their opportunity to govern and they are challenged right now," he added.


Freese also said he would like to see the Congressional investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to influence the last presidential election move forward.

Durbin answered questions during the town hall meeting on topics ranging from health care, education, the Supreme Court, immigration, the environment, and Russian meddling in U. S. affairs.

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Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.