U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Democratic state Sen. Donne Trotter, a candidate to succeed Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress, shouldn't get any special treatment as an elected official for allegedly trying to board a plane with a firearm and ammunition.
Speaking to reporters at a downtown hotel Friday, Durbin also said he remained optimistic that a solution to the so-called fiscal cliff could be reached by Congress before year's end. But Durbin, the state's senior senator and the No. 2 ranking Democrat in the chamber, also said Republicans need to realize that the November election results were a repudiation of tea party Republicanism.
Trotter, a veteran Democratic lawmaker from the South Side, appeared to have an early leg up to win a party endorsement Dec. 15. But Trotter was arrested and faces felony charges on allegations he tried to take a gun and ammunition on a plane at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday. Trotter, first elected to the state Legislature in 1988, told police he forgot the gun in his garment bag after working as a security officer.
Durbin said Trotter should not be exempt from facing charges.
"We're very serious, and we have to remain serious at airports. When people want to bring firearms on airplanes, they've got to know they face felony charges, which is what is looming over Sen. Trotter at the moment," Durbin said.
"What happens as a result of this case, I can't say. But we can't make exceptions because someone's an elected official," Durbin said. "This applies to everybody across the board. Don't tempt us. Don't try to test the system because we're serious about safety on our airplanes."
In Washington, negotiations continue between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner to avoid a series of tax increases and spending cuts that go into effect with the new year. Durbin said he still believed a compromise "will get done" next week.
The senator said Republicans realistically have to know that income tax rates on the wealthy -- those with incomes of more than $250,000 -- will increase, while Democrats have to come to grips with making changes to Medicare health care coverage for the elderly. He also said a large-scale deficit-reduction package is needed, rather than just an interim package to get past the Dec. 31 deadline.
Durbin voiced support for additional payments by wealthier seniors into Medicare. Some parts of the program, including doctor's bills and prescription drug benefits, already use what is known as means testing.
But Durbin also said he believed that cuts could not be made in the Medicaid health care coverage program for the poor.
"From my point of view, I don't see how we can cut Medicaid without hurting some of the most vulnerable populations in America," he said. "If someone can demonstrate otherwise, show me."
The veteran Illinois Democrat also said Republicans should have learned some lessons from the election about allegiance to the tea party movement.
"The tea party label has become a label of obstruction," Durbin said. "The tactics they used over the last two years were rejected by the voters across the board."
Durbin says Trotter deserves no special treatment on O'Hare gun arrest
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