During remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) compared President Obama’s executive orders on immigration to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and said that the president’s “courage” to take executive action was an important moment in righting the wrongs of the “fatally flawed” Constitution.
Durbin began by saying how “seriously” he and his colleagues in the Senate took their commitment to defending the Constitution—a document he said, however, was “fatally flawed from the start.”
Before any of us can serve in the United States Senate, we stand in the well of the Senate chamber and publicly take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. I know we all take that seriously, as we should. This is not just another government document. It is really the inspiration of this government and it still governs our actions to this day.
Yet, if we view this document with honesty, we know that it was fatally flawed from the start. It got the issue of slavery wrong, in addition to some other issues. It got the issue of race wrong. And since the days when the document was drafted and signed, we have struggled as a nation to right that wrong. It has taken a long, long time.
Durbin then said it was right to celebrate the major moments in which public leaders have helped “right that wrong,” specifically Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, MLK’s march in Selma, and Obama’s executive amnesty:
We properly celebrate those moments in history where we finally moved on the air of the Constitution on race, and really move on a new path. We celebrate that day 152 years ago when a Republican President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, issued an executive order, an executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed 3 million slaves in America. It is proper that we celebrate that moment because America stepped forward because of that president's courage and the use of his executive power. We also are celebrating now on March 7 the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
It is fitting and proper that members of President Lincoln's party, the Republican Party, and Democratic Party members, are co-sponsoring legislation to give a congressional gold medal to those who marched across the bridge and risks their lives to further the cause of civil rights. It's not only fitting and proper, it is necessary. But it's not sufficient. What we are required to do in our generation is to stand behind those elements and moments in history where we can further the cause of civil rights.
Durbin went on to express the Democrats' standard faux outrage over what he characterized as the Republicans obstinately standing in the way of racial progress.
This article has been updated.