Dick Durbin

  • Aired:  08/04/11
  •  | Views: 34,577

Senator Dick Durbin understands America's frustration with Congress and discusses working on the debt ceiling crisis as a Gang of Six member. (8:40)

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS THE SENIOR

UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM THE

GREAT STATE OF ILLINOIS.

PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM

SENATOR DICK DURBIN.

SIR, NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

>> HOW ARE YOU DOING?

>> Jon: ALL RIGHT.

THAT WAS NICE.

YOU SAW THE SHOW BACK IN THE

GREEN ROOM.

>> YEAH, I DID.

>> Jon: I APOLOGIZE.

NORMALLY THAT'S THE KIND OF

STUFF WE WOULD SHOW SOMEONE FROM

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

YOU ARE MORE OBVIOUSLY

ESTEEMED.

HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP?

YOU'VE BEEN AT THE SENATE HOW

LONG?

>> 15 YEARS.

>> Jon: 15 YEARS.

IS THIS THE WORST IT'S BEEN?

DO YOU SENSE PEOPLE'S UPSET WITH

CONGRESS?

>> JON, THEY SAY THE APPROVAL

RATING OF CONGRESS IS BETWEEN 6%

AND 19%.

I DON'T BELIEVE WE HAVE THAT

MANY RELATIVES, SO...

>> Jon: IT'S GETTING UGLY OUT

THERE.

>> THE NUMBERS ARE INFLATED.

[LAUGHTER]

>> Jon: IS IT... DO YOU... DO

YOU BELIEVE IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE

THAT PEOPLE MIGHT BE FRUSTRATED

WITH, FOR INSTANCE, THIS DEBT

CEILING ISSUE AND THE DEFICIT

REDUCTION PLANS AND THOSE

THINGS?

ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BEING

INCREDIBLY UNFAIR, OR CAN YOU

UNDERSTAND THEIR UPSET?

>> OH, I GET IT.

I UNDERSTAND IT.

HERE WE HAVE AN ECONOMY WITH TOO

MANY PEOPLE OUT OF WORK.

WE'RE NOT GETTING WELL FAST

ENOUGH.

AND UP COMES THE IDEA OF

DEFAULTING ON AMERICA'S DEBT FOR

THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY.

LET'S SEE HOW THAT WORKS.

AND MOST PEOPLE WOULD SAY, WELL,

THAT'S A SELF-INFLICTED WOUND.

IT IS A POLITICALLY MANUFACTURED

CRISIS.

IT'S JUST GOING TO MAKE THINGS

WORSE.

>> Jon: SO YOU IN ESSENCE

DON'T CARE FOR CONGRESS EITHER?

>> TRUST ME, THERE ARE MOMENTS

WHEN I DON'T, AND I'M PRETTY

CLOSE TO IT, SO I SEE IT BEHIND

THE SCENES.

>> Jon: WELL, THAT'S WHAT'S SO

INTERESTING.

THE DEFICIT REDUCTION PLAN THAT

WE GOT SEEMS VERY SIMILAR.

YOU WERE ON THIS SIMPSON-BOWLES

COMMITTEE.

>> RIGHT.

>> Jon: NOW THAT WAS CREATED

TO COME UP WITH A THOUGHTFUL,

BIPARTISAN SOLUTION LONG TERM TO

OUR CRISIS.

HOW LONG DID YOU WORK ON THAT?

>> TEN MONTHS.

>> Jon: AND IT WAS... WHAT WAS

INVOLVED IN SIMPSON-BOWLES?

>> WELL, THERE WERE 18 OF US

APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT AND

BY THE LEADERS IN CONGRESS,

PRETTY EVENLY DIVIDED IN TERMS

OF DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS,

BUSINESS SECTOR AS WELL AS

PEOPLE WHO WORK IN GOVERNMENT.

AND WE SAT AND CONSIDERED ALL

THE OPTIONS.

AT THE END OF IT, AND I THOUGHT

ERSKINE BOWLES DID A MASTERFUL

JOB, THEY SAID, HERE IT IS.

AND WHEN I LOOKED AT IT, I

THOUGHT, AT THE END OF THE DAY,

THERE AREN'T MANY OPTIONS.

YOU HAVE BASICALLY THREE

THINGS -- SPENDING, GENERAL

SPENDING, THE ENTITLEMENT

PROGRAMS AND REVENUE OR TAXES.

AND IF YOU DON'T PUT THEM ALL ON

THE TABLE, YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE

TOO MUCH OUT OF ONE OR THE

OTHER.

I VOTED FOR IT.

11 OUT OF 18 OF US VOTED FOR IT.

>> Jon: THIS DID NOT MAKE IT

TO CONGRESS.

>> NO.

>> Jon: THEY NEVER GOT A

CHANCE TO DO ANYTHING WITH IT

BECAUSE THE GROUP THAT WAS

FORMED TO MAKE IT REJECTED IT.

>> 11 OUT OF 18 DID.

AND WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GET 14,

BUT THE CLOCK HAD RUN OUT ON US

TO BE HONEST.

THAT'S HOW THE GANG OF SIX CAME

ABOUT.

>> Jon: THAT'S NEXT STEP.

>> SAXBY CHAMBLISS OF GEORGIA,

MARK WARNER OF VIRGINIA SAID,

CAN WE TAKE THIS BOLD IDEA AND

ACTUALLY TURN IT INTO

LEGISLATION.

>> Jon: YOU WERE ON THE GANG

OF SIX, AS WELL.

>> I WAS.

>> Jon: THE GANG OF SIX --

SIMPSON BOWLES SOUNDS LIKE A

BRITISH WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT.

THAT'S NOT GOING TO BE.

BUT "GANG OF SIX," THIS IS

SERIOUS BUSINESS.

NOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO GET

HURT.

[LAUGHTER]

WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

>> FIRST THE TATTOOS.

[LAUGHTER]

>> Jon: THE TEARDROPS.

TERRIBLE.

>> A FEW SECRET HANDSHAKES.

THEN WE SAT DOWN FOR ABOUT FIVE,

SIX MONTHS AND WORKED IT

THROUGH.

HOW DO WE TURN THIS IDEA INTO A

LAW?

IT WASN'T EASY.

BUT WE DID IT.

AND UNFORTUNATELY WE DID IT TOO

LATE.

IF THERE'S ANYTHING, ANY FAULT

I WOULD HAVE WITH OUR EFFORT, WE

SHOULD HAVE DONE THIS WEEKS

BEFORE SO WE WERE PLAYERS IN

THIS LAST CONVERSATION.

BUT HERE'S WHAT WAS INTERESTING.

WE HELD A MEETING ABOUT THREE

WEEKS AGO, INVITED 70 MEMBERS OF

CONGRESS WHO HAD EXPRESSED AN

INTEREST IN THIS TO COME AROUND

AND LET US TELL YOU WHAT WE'VE

DECIDED.

49 SHOWED UP.

EQUALLY INVITED.

THEN WE SAID, ALL RIGHT, LET'S

TAKE THE NEXT STEP.

ARE YOU READY TO SIGN ON THE

LINE HERE, PUT YOUR NAME NEXT TO

THIS THING.

36 SENATORS, DEMOCRATS AND

REPUBLICANS, SAID, WE'LL SIGN

ON IT.

AND IT'S THE REAL THING.

IT ISN'T A JOKE.

I MEAN, IT REALLY DOES GET TO

THE BOTTOM.

THAT'S WHAT, DESPITE ALL THE

NEGATIVE FEELINGS PEOPLE HAVE

ABOUT CONGRESS, THERE IS A FORCE

AT WORK HERE AMONG AT LEAST THE

SENATORS THAT I SERVE WITH, A

BIPARTISAN FORCE, THAT GETS IT

RIGHT.

AND I THINK IT, WITH THE RIGHT

OPPORTUNITY, CAN DEAL WITH THIS

IN A GROWN-UP WAY.

WHAT WE'VE JUST SEEN WAS

EMBARRASSING.

>> Jon: SO 16 MONTHS YOU PUT

IN ON THIS?

>> MAKE IT 16 TO 18 MONTHS.

RIGHT.

>> Jon: SO YOU COULD HAVE HAD

TWO KIDS IN THAT TIME.

ALL RIGHT.

SO...

>> THAT'S A RECURRING THEME ON

THIS SHOW.

>> Jon: IT REALLY IS.

BUT IN THAT TIME, YOU HONED THIS

DOWN, AND YET ULTIMATELY IT'S

NOT EVEN CONSIDERED.

ALL THAT WORK.

IS THAT THE FRAMEWORK THAT WILL

BE USED IN THE NEXT FIGHT?

OR AT WHAT POINT ARE YOU JUST ON

A STATIONARY BICYCLE AND WHAT...

BECAUSE NOW THERE IS AN IDEA OF

A SUPER COMMITTEE.

>> RIGHT.

>> Jon: THAT WILL BE THE GANG

OF SIX BUT WITH KNIVES OR

WHATEVER THEY'RE GOING TO DO.

AND WHAT WILL THAT ACCOMPLISH?

>> WELL, IN FAIRNESS, WE WEREN'T

READY FOR PRIME TIME.

WE DIDN'T HAVE THIS THING IN

WRITING.

WE WEREN'T READY TO PRESENT THIS

AND SAY, HERE, SAVE THE DAY.

WE WEREN'T THERE.

BUT WE'RE CLOSE ENOUGH THAT WE

CAN GET THERE IN A SHORT PERIOD

OF TIME.

SO ALONG COMES THE IDEA OF A

JOINT COMMITTEE.

NOW, I'VE SEEN THIS MOVIE.

I SAW IT IN THE ORIGINAL ENGLISH

WITH BOWLES-SIMPSON.

AND THEN I SAW IT IN SUBTITLES

IN GANG OF SIX.

AND NOW THEY'RE GOING...

WHATEVER IT IS.

IT ALWAYS ENDS THE SAME WAY.

YOU ALWAYS HAVE THE SAME THINGS

ON THE TABLE.

YOU HAVE TO DECIDE, ALL RIGHT

WHACKS ARE WE GOING TO DO TO

EACH OF THESE THAT'S GOOD FOR

THE ECONOMY, THAT'S FAIR TO

EVERYBODY.

AND SO I HOPE THAT AT SOME POINT

THIS JOINT COMMITTEE TAKES WHAT

WE'VE DONE AND PUTS IT ON THE

TABLE AND SAYS, LET'S SAVE SOME

TIME.

THIS JOINT COMMITTEE HAS TEN

WEEKS, LITERALLY TEN WEEKS START

TO FINISH TO COME UP WITH A

PRODUCT.

THAT'S NOT A LOT OF TIME.

>> NOW IS THAT A PRODUCT THAT

THEN NEEDS TO BE VOTED ON BY THE

FULL HOUSE AND THE FULL SENATE.

>> AND IF IT FAILS, IN COMES THE

SO-CALLED TRIGGERS.

THAT MEANS DEEP SPENDING CUTS ON

THE DOMESTIC SIDE WHERE WE'VE

ALREADY TAKEN A BIG CUT.

>> Jon: DO YOU FEEL ANY

REGRETS THAT THE DEMOCRATS, WHEN

THEY HAD CONTROL OF THE HOUSE

AND SENATE, DIDN'T JUST PASS A

BUDGET, WHEN THEY HAD THE

OPPORTUNITY TO, DIDN'T PUNCH IT

OUT OF FEAR OF LOSING SEATS IN

THE HOUSE, SO THAT THE

REPUBLICANS COULD COME IN,

CHANGE THAT SO-CALLED GEPHARDT

RULE AND MAKE IT SO THAT THE

DEBT CEILING DOESN'T

AUTOMATICALLY GET RAISED IN A

BUDGET?

IF THEY HAD DONE THAT, WOULDN'T

THAT HAVE BASICALLY AVOIDED THIS

ENTIRE DEBACLE?

>> WE COULD HAVE SPARED

OURSELVES OF THIS.

AND I THINK WE SHOULD HAVE.

YOU KNOW, THERE'S SOMETHING

FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAIR, AND I'LL

POINT THE FINGER AT MY

REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES.

>> Jon: NOW THAT SEEMS

SURPRISING.

>> IS THAT OKAY?

>> Jon: YEAH.

>> MANY OF THEM HAVE SAID THEY

LIKE WAR, THEY LIKE WAGING WAR,

THEY LIKE THE NOTION OF STAYING

IN WAR.

THEY THINK WE SHOULD SPEND A LOT

OF MONEY IN WAR, AND WHEN THE

PRESIDENT SAYS, UH, I'M GOING TO

HAVE TO BORROW A LITTLE MONEY TO

DO THIS, NO WAY.

I'M JUST FOR WAR WHEN I DON'T

HAVE TO VOTE FOR THE DEBT

CEILING.

>> Jon: TO BE FAIR, I DON'T

THINK ANYONE WOULD SAY, "I LIKE

WAR."

YOU MEAN THAT METAPHORICALLY?

>> METAPHORICALLY.

>> Jon: YOU MEAN THEY LIKE TO

FIGHT?

>> THEY LIKE THE NOTION THAT WE

WOULD ENGAGE OUR TROOPS IN

COMBAT TO ASSERT AMERICA'S

POSITION IN THE WORLD.

SOME OF US FOR EXAMPLE, THERE

WERE 23 OF US WHO VOTED AGAINST

THE WAR IN IRAQ.

>> Jon: THAT'S... THAT'S A

SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT CONVERSATION.

I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING

SOMEWHERE ELSE WITH THAT

COMPLETELY, BUT THAT'S LIKE...

CAN YOU STICK AROUND FAR LITTLE

BIT?

I DO WANT TO EXPLORE THAT.

WE'LL THROW THAT UP ON THE WEB.

OKAY.

DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING.

ALL RIGHT.

[LAUGHTER]

SENATOR DICK DURBIN.

ILLINOIS.

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

[APPLAUSE]

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