Sen. Durbin to GOP: Put down Ayn Rand books

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Republicans to stop reading Ayn Rand books and help Democrats pass legislation aimed to give struggling Americans a hand.

“I say to my conservative friends, put down those Ayn Rand books for a minute and take a look at the real world,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “If we can’t stand behind those who are struggling in life, who are we; what are we?” 

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Durbin was marking the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty speech. 

Durbin said the first step Republicans could take in showing they want to help the public would be to vote with Democrats to temporarily extend unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million people who lost their benefits on Dec. 28.

“Helping to reduce poverty in America will help us all,” Durbin said. “Work with us to help America. Please start off by extending unemployment insurance.”

The Senate is currently debating whether to proceed to consideration of the $6.4 billion three-month extension. But some Republicans have complained the legislation isn’t paid for with offsets.

Later Wednesday, the Senate is expected to pass a motion to proceed to the bill and debate it for the rest of the week.

The White House and Democrats have used the push for federal unemployment benefits as part of an effort highlighting income inequality. The party hopes the issue can attract voters ahead of a midterm election in which Democrats are worried about losing the Senate. 

Several other Democratic senators marked LBJ's famous speech, including Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii).