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Democrats: U.S. suffering from GOP corruption

Durbin blasts lobbyists, vanishing pensions, energy, medical care

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Richard Durbin
Radio Address
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the Democratic Party's weekly radio address on the weekend honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin said if the slain civil rights leader were alive today, he would be troubled by today's Republican policies.

"I'm sure he would be pleased with the progress we have made on racial justice," the Illinois senator said, noting that fellow Democrat and African American Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate by one of the largest margins in Illinois' history.

But, he also said, "There are a lot of other changes in America that would trouble Dr. King."

Quoting King, who once said that "in America, power is so unequally divided," Durbin blamed the Republican Party, which has controlled the federal government for five years, for spawning what he called "a culture of corruption."

Although he admitted that "neither Democrats nor Republicans have a monopoly on virtue," he said the GOP's "unprecedented concentration of power" is to blame for "preventing government from dealing with the real needs of our nation."

He alluded to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff who, earlier this month, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

"Powerful corporate special interests control the agenda and people who don't have paid lobbyists really don't have much of a voice," he said. "To these power players, the challenges facing America are not problems to solve, but opportunities to exploit. We're all paying the price for that."

He also denounced President Bush's Medicare prescription plan, which took effect this year, as "a complicated mess that wastes tens of billions of dollars on giveaways to pharmaceutical companies and big insurance companies."

"In the wealthiest nation on Earth, it is unforgivable that 45 million Americans have no health insurance and so many people are underinsured -- at some of the highest costs you can imagine," Durbin said. "Yet the White House and this Republican Congress have done literally nothing over the last five years to address this challenge."

Durbin also criticized the administration's energy plan as catering to big oil and gas companies, instead of providing "a strategy for real energy independence for America."

The Illinois Democrat also took corporate America to task for freezing pension plans, despite a dramatic increase in profits.

"Think of this: People are putting in a lifetime on their jobs and then losing their pensions to mergers, bankruptcies and corporate sleight of hand," he said.

Durbin then touted a Democratic-sponsored package that he said will increase government accountability, enforce ethics rules, strengthen bans against lobbyist and "to stop people at the highest levels of government from cashing in on government service."

"When the president delivers his annual State of the Union address at the end of the month, I hope he will join us, on a bipartisan basis, in reforming the way Washington does business," Durbin said. "As Dr. King reminded us, America has no second- or third-class citizens. We should all have an equal voice and an equal chance to succeed."

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