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Durbin mulls: Open oil reserves to lower gas prices on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley"

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Transcript courtesy of CNN....

THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CROWLEY: Joining me from Chicago, Senator Dick Durbin, who is the second ranking senator in the Senate. Thank you for joining me, senator.

Let me ask you about the continuing resolution, which is just a stop-gap spending measure while you all try to get your act together. I'm assuming that that's going to pass, that there will be -- there's no real threat of a government shutdown.

SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN, D-ILL., SENATE MAJORITY WHIP: No, I think it will pass in the House this week and later in the Senate. It buys us about three weeks. It includes cuts, which we have offered on the Democratic side in an effort to find a reasonable compromise here. I hope that the Republican leadership in the House will see this as a signal of good faith. We brought their budget before the Senate and it fell 16 votes short of passage, as did the Democratic budget.

We're in a position now where we need to sit down and reasonably come to a conclusion so that we can get about the business of governing this country.

CROWLEY: Well, I want to remind you of something one of your colleagues, Senator Claire McCaskill said -- she's from Missouri. And she was one of 10 senators on your side who voted against your budget, which I think went down by more than the Republican budget did. So, I wanted you to just listen to Senator McCaskill again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, D-MO.: There are way to many people in denial around here about the nature of the problem and how serious it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Basically saying, look, Democrats, some Democrats don't have an idea how much money needs to be cut. What's your reaction to that?

DURBIN: My reaction is this -- we're not going to balance America's budget in the next six months. We should be taking care that we don't do things that damage our economy and really slow down our recovery. The notion, as the president said, of cutting hundreds of thousands of children off Head Start at this moment, cutting Pell grants for college students so they would have to drop out of school, delaying or stopping research in energy when we see gas prices going through the roof, suspending medical research for six or seven months. Listen, that goes way too far. And it goes in a direction not good for this country.

I'm part of a group, six senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, we're looking at this in honest and hard terms about how we deal with this deficit. Not in a matter of six months, but over a period of time so that we responsibly cut spending and don't do it at the expense of America's economic growth.

CROWLEY: But senator, what is the message if 10 of your own party members in the Senate vote against your budget saying -- basically saying most of them, not enough?

DURBIN: Most of them want more cuts. And we have come through with more cuts. It is likely we will debate that. But I think what the president has said, and I think he's very accurate in this regard, we are going to be reasonable to get through this current political difficulty, but let's not do things that will harm us for a long time to come.

Cutting money for education and worker trending in the midst of a recession is not a good idea. Cutting back on research when we're in a fierce global competition so that America can create good paying jobs right here at home is not a good idea. Let's do thoughtful things.

CROWLEY: You know I know that you talk about thoughtful things, but the truth is you have had all last year to do this budget. And you didn't get it done by the deadline, which is October 1. Now we're doing yet another -- your sixth continues resolution. Is this any way to run a railroad? I mean, isn't why we always get into these things -- you know we can't cut Head Start, we can't do this. Shouldn't you all have figured this out last year?

DURBIN: Amen, amen. I agree with you. Candy, it is not a way to run a government or a great country. And what we need to do is put this in perspective. I watched your coverage on Japan. I've listened to things we face as a nation. And I think it's time for people of good will in both political parties to sit down, work this out. Let's resolve the budget for the rest of the year. If there are going to be new revenues or cuts in other areas, let's get it done. Let's move on and move forward.

We need to be thinking about the rise in gas prices and what that means in terms of our economic recovery in this recession. The fact that we're spending $1 billion a day as a nation importing oil. These are things which call out for us to be thinking in bipartisan terms to come up with an energy policy that serves our nation.

CROWLEY: What do you want to do go gas prices, since you brought it up?

DURBIN: Well, I think the president's right. We need to consider moving toward the strategic petroleum reserve to put the oil we have in reserve into the economy, to try to temper this increase in gas prices. This isn't helping our recovery.

CROWLEY: Well, if I understood the president, senator, I think what he said was that the oil reserve was for when supplies are disrupted. This is not a supply problem. This is a demand problem. You want him to use that reserve to bring down gas prices, oil pries?

DURBIN: I'm worried that if we don't use the reserve, that our economic recovery will stall and fall backwards. We don't need to see unemployment figures going up, so that's my concern. But secondly, let's not overlook the obvious. We're still too dependent on foreign oil. Troubles in northern Africa have an impact on the price of gasoline right here in Chicago.

We need to think about what we need to do as a nation to move forward. Responsible exploration and production right here in the United States, though we're at record levels over the last several years, we need to look and see what other things are available to us.

But beyond that, energy efficiency with a thought toward the environmental impact of the use of energy. These are things a great nation needs to do if it's going to lead into the 21st Century.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you back to one last question on the budget and play for you something Senator Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, had to say this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN III, D-W.VA.: This debate, as important as it is, will be be decided by House Republicans or by Senate Democrats negotiating with each other or past each other. The debate will be decided when the president leads these tough negotiations. And right now, that's not happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Senator, has the president been AWOL in these discussions?

DURBIN: No.

CROWLEY: What's Senator Manchin talking about?

DURBIN: Well, I think there's a perception and a frustration among members of Congress that things aren't moving to a conclusion. The president is working behind the scenes. I've met with him with leadership. I know he is reaching out to try to find some accommodation here. He is trying to reach a point where we acknowledge the obvious. We have a serious deficit problem, borrowing 40 cents for every dollar we spend.

We cannot solve this problem in six months. We have to look at it in the medium and long term for the good of this nation and for our financial reputation in the world.

But the president's establishing priorities, the most important American priorities. And I think that should guide us in the negotiation.

CROWLEY: Senator Dick Durbin, I bet you we're going to talk about the budget in 2012 pretty soon here. We thank you for being with us on this one.

DURBIN: Thanks, Candy.

- END -

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 14, 2011 6:56 AM.

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