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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript - Budget Cuts and Sequester


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BOB SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much. Well, for the Democratic response to all of that, the assistant Senate leader Richard Durbin joins us now from Chicago. Senator, the floor is yours.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D-Illinois): All I can tell you it was great to hear my colleagues, the two amigos. Bob, I spend hours each week with both of them and a number of senators, Democrats and Republicans. We're trying to write a new immigration bill. I think people who have given up on Congress would be encouraged to know that there is a real positive dialogue, bipartisan dialogue, and, perhaps, just perhaps we can set the stage for an even more positive dialogue when it comes to the budget.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So you actually think that something can happen and-- and you're working with them? You think there really is a serious bipartisan effort on this one.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Oh, there's no question about it. Chuck Schumer and myself and Bob Menendez, Mike Bennett, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, and the two amigos you just had on board here have really buckled down. We meet virtually every day in a bipartisan effort to write an immigration bill. The President supports this. I think it can be achieved. And the point I want to make when I listen to Lindsey Graham and talk about where we need to go with deficit reduction, what he is saying is basically the construct of the Bowles and Simpson Commission, the notion of putting everything on the table--revenue, spending cuts, entitlement reform. If we did that, we'd avoid these manufactured crises like the one we're in right now.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I think we are beyond the going arguing about whose fault it is on how we got here. I think there's plenty of blame for-- for both sides and I would guess you'd probably agree with that. But where do you go now? What is the next step? They're saying the President needs to get people together again and try to sit down at the table and talk about this. How do you think you get them there? And is that the way to do it?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: You know, Bob, I'm almost afraid to say it that the American people over the past two years-plus have been lurching or watching Washington lurch from threatened government shutdowns, threatened economic shutdowns, the words fiscal cliff become common in the American language. Now we know what it's all about. The sequestration word is very common. Unfortunately, in three weeks we face another one. It's the expiration of the continuing resolution, which means the funding bill for government expires in three weeks. We have to agree how to finish the year until September thirtieth. It creates an opportunity for to us sit down, the President and congressional leaders, and come up with an answer that is sensible to deal with sequestration, as well as with the remainder of this year.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Have you ever seen Washington as gridlocked as it is at this particular time?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: No, I never have and I have been through some pretty rough periods of time. I can recall the ascendancy of Newt Gingrich and what it meant to us. It was a very frustrating and emotional upheaval in Washington, but what we have here is a steady diet and I have-- I don't want to point fingers, but I will. The House Republican approach to this is we're either going to do it exclusively with Republicans or we just won't do it at all. Only when they're pushed to the absolute extreme will they allow a bipartisan vote. What you heard this morning from my two Republican colleagues--and I hope what I'm saying is that we're trying to establish a new standard in the Senate, a bipartisan dialogue that might lead to a solution. If the House would embrace the same basic concept, I am certain, certain the president would sit down and work in good faith to get us through this.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about one side show that came along this week and that was the flap between Bob Woodward, the legendary Watergate reporter, and the White House. Woodward basically suggested that the White House was trying to intimidate reporters. What's your take on that?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Well, it's all about Gene Sperling, an economic adviser to the President, as he was to President Clinton, and emails he exchanged with Bob Woodward. I have known Gene Sperling for many, many years. And if you ask everyone who knows him to describe him, the word threatening is the last word that would come out of your mouth. That is not Gene Sperling. That's not who he is. What he said is I think you'll come to regret what Bob Woodward asserted and a regret can mean more than whether or not he's going to be threatened in terms of his status with the White House. He may come to regret it because it's wrong. Gene Sperling is not a threatening person. And although emotions were running high, at the end of their email exchange, it's pretty clear they're both on a very friendly status.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, we want to thank you for giving us the Democrat side of the story. We will be back and we'll talk to Bob Woodward about this in just a minute.

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