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Davis, Durbin Praise Pope’s Address To Congress


Pope Francis’ call for a renewed spirit of cooperation in Congress drew praise from members of Illinois’ congressional delegation, including Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and 13th District Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

Durbin praised the pope’s address to Congress Thursday, which he says extended a challenge to members of Congress to lead better lives and to help people.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time," he said.  "We are divided on partisan lines and regional lines and so many others. But he’s really begged us all to put that aside, and aspire to some of his values and ideals that he’s spelled out.”

Davis said he hopes members of Congress on both sides of the aisle heed the Pope’s message, and decide that working together is better.

“I hope that both parties will step up to the plate, and ensure that we don’t go through another government shutdown," he said.  "I know I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself in the next upcoming week.”

Other lawmakers shared the pope's sentiments.  Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk issued a statement.

"It is an honor to have Pope Francis, who is a symbol of love and compassion for more than a billion Catholics around the world and 3.8 million in Illinois, in the United States," he said.  "May we take his message of unity and cooperation to heart."

"Pope Francis teaches that no matter what your position is in life, always be humble and forgiving - sometimes a much-needed lesson for many in Washington," said Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Channahon, in a statement of his own.

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, making history as the first pontiff to do so. Listening behind the pope are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

While Durbin and Davis agreed on the pope’s message, Davis and Durbin are far apart on federal funding for Planned Parenthood - the issue that threatens to lead to a government shutdown.

Davis, who voted in the House to de-fund Planned Parenthood, says he wants to avoid a government shutdown over the issue.  Meanwhile, Durbin supports continued funding for Planned Parenthood, and says a shutdown would be the fault of Republicans, especially Texas Senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.

Pope Francis received applause from Republicans opposed to abortion yesterday, when he told a joint session of Congress of the responsibility to protect human life at all stages of development.

But instead of talking about abortion, the pope discussed the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty, and never directly mentioned abortion in his speech.

Durbin said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had tried to set up two votes on abortion the same week as the pope’s visit -- which he called an “obvious ploy” based on an expected papal comment against abortion.

But Durbin said Pope Francis proved to be interested in a wider range of issues, such as immigration reform and climate change.

“I never for a moment doubted his feelings about the issue of abortion and the church’s teaching on the subject," he said.  "But I think there was more there. If Senator McConnell believes that that was the exclusive issue of the day, I think the remarks of the pope will prove otherwise."

Davis says he agrees with Pope Francis’ call for nationwide abolition of the death penalty.  But the Republican says such a move come with other criminal justice reforms.  Davis said there’s a disparity now in some prison sentences.

“The federal government needs to take a strong look in ensuring that our criminal justice system punishes those who deserve to be punished, rather than punitively punishing folks for mistakes that they have made, like being caught with a certain amount of drugs, for example," he said.

Nineteen states have abolished the death penalty, including Illinois, in 2011.  One state senator, Bill Haine (D-Alton) said he’ll file legislation next month calling for its re-instatement.

Pope Francis also touched on immigration, saying the US should not be afraid to welcome those from outside the country.                                                                                                                       

Davis says Congress needs a bipartisan consensus on immigration reform, that reduces obstacles in the immigration process. He says there’s too much emphasis placed on illegal border crossings, and that most illegal immigration involves people who have overstayed their visas.

Davis said he agrees with Pope Francis’ call for nationwide abolition of the the death penalty.  But the Republican said such a move come with other criminal justice reforms.