Taking up a cause once championed by Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, Sen. Dick Durbin introduced legislation Tuesday calling for the United States to set a goal of expanding access to clean drinking water to an additional 100 million people around the world.
Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said he believed it was the right moment to press for the national commitment with President Barack Obama already pledged to double foreign aid and sharing a "common political legacy" with Simon, also a former senator representing Illinois.
"I said to President Obama, 'Paul Simon doesn't need a statue. He would never ask that a building be named after him,' " said Durbin, recounting a pitch he made to the president. " 'But if, in his name, we could do something like this, carry on this great idea and reach the poorest people in the world, it would be the greatest tribute possible.' "
Durbin declined to say how Obama responded.
Before his death, Simon took up the unglamorous cause of global water supplies, writing a 1998 book on the subject, "Tapped Out: The Coming Crisis in Water and What We Can Do About It."
Two years after Simon's death in 2003, Congress passed legislation in his honor, also sponsored by Durbin, making safe drinking water and sanitation for developing nations a policy goal.
The new bill would dramatically expand the commitment with more grants and a new Office of Water at the U.S. Agency for International Development. It sets a goal of bringing clean water to 100 million more people by 2015.
"The global water crisis is a quiet killer," Durbin said in a speech at a conference on the subject hours before introducing his bill. "In the developing world, more than 5,000 children die every day from easily preventable water-related illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and malaria."
Durbin argued that global warming may reduce supplies of clean water and that competition for access to water is "a threat to global stability," particularly in the volatile Middle East. He said the struggle over water is among "the roots" of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
Comment: Yet another crisis from Durbin...I guess he hasn't gotten the memo, it's now called "global climate change" and we are expecting global cooling, this week anyway.
Durbin, 1 of 100 reasons to repeal the 17th Amendment!