CHAMPAIGN — While many of his Democratic colleagues have thrown their hats in the ring for the White House in 2020, Sen. Dick Durbin said Tuesday that he won't be joining them.
"Some people come to me and say I should run for president," Durbin said. "I went to my wife, Loretta, and she said it's OK if I wanted to. I said there's one condition: She gets to pick the country."
Durbin told a group of about 65 people attending a rally at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 601 that his intentions are to remain in the U.S. Senate.
"I haven't made a formal declaration, but I am making every preparation for it," Durbin said. "I looked at 2020 and thought, of all I've done in life and all I've done in politics, has there ever been a moment in the history of my life that is more important? I would go crazy standing on the sidelines. I still feel good, and I hope I make sense most of the time. The outpouring of encouragement has been great."
Durbin likens the influx of Democratic presidential candidates to the 68 teams competing in the NCAA basketball tournament, and while not endorsing any of the hopefuls, he said he has confidence that many of them could lead the country.
"Every one of those senators who are running for president are friends for sure," Durbin said. "And I would add Joe Biden to that list. He is a wonderful fellow.
"I was joking the other day at one of our Senate Democratic luncheons. I nudged Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and said, 'See that table of eight Democratic senators over there? Four of them are running for president.'"
Durbin also praised the qualities of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, another presidential hopeful.
He met Buttigieg when the mayor was a last-minute fill-in for Biden at last year's Illinois State Fair.
"He came in as a speaker, and the people, particularly the younger folks, loved him," he said.
Durbin said he is less familiar with the various governors seeking the nomination.
"I haven't had much to do with Steve Bullock out of Montana or John Hickenlooper of Colorado," he said. "I did serve with Washington Governor Jay Inslee in the House."
Durbin said he isn't picking a particular person at this time.
"But America needs a change from this president," Durbin said. "We'll be looking for the right one."
The senator from Springfield praised Champaign County Democrats for sweeping all the countywide offices and supporting the Democratic statewide slate in the November 2018 elections.
"This last election told me something great about Champaign County, and I don't think it was just luck," Durbin said. "It took people who worked hard to elect a lot of good people to serve."
Durbin said the takeover of the House by the Democrats was positive.
"We finally got a way to keep some of the worst things from happening," Durbin said. ""But I wish I could say the same in the Senate, where the Republicans are in control and unfortunately have an agenda for which I think we are going to pay for a long time to come."
Durbin accused the Republicans of placing a large number of federal judges into lifetime positions.
"They don't just bring us people who are conservative. They bring us people who are extreme in their position," Durbin said. "That is something we are going to live with for a generation or more."
Durbin said there is a need for the federal government to address climate change.
"This world is changing before our eyes, and we have got to do something about it," he said.
Durbin said one of his top priorities is to address the high cost of prescription drugs.
"The price of health care continues to go up because of it," he said. "We are putting pressure on the prescription drug manufacturers to put the prices under control."
On immigration, Durbin said that Muslim travel bans, calling immigrants at the borders "invaders" and cutting down the number of refugees being accepted "is not who we are.
"We're better than that, and we need a leader of our country who is better than that and who gets us away from hate and fear and anger."