WASHINGTON--Despite the deep partisan divide that produced the sequester--the forced automatic spending cuts kicking in Friday--Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday he was hopeful bi-partisan immigration reform can be achieved.
Durbin is part of an eight member Senate team--four Democrats, four Republicans--drafting immigration legislation.
Speaking to CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer Durbin said "Chuck Schumer, myself and Bob Menendez, Mike Bennet, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, and the two amigos you just had on board here (John McCain and Lindsey Graham) 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.
"The point I want to make: When I listen to Lindsey Graham 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," Durbin said, referring to the sequester.
Schieffer asked Durbin what the next step was on the sequester impasse.
"You know, Bob, I'm almost afraid to say it. 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" have 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 30th.
"It creates an opportunity for us to 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."
Washington gridlock is about as bad as Durbin has seen it, he said.
"And I've been through some pretty rough periods of time.
"I can recall the ascendency 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 where they allow a bipartisan vote.
"What you heard this morning from my two Republican colleagues, and I hope what I'm saying, is that that we're trying to establish a new standard in the Senate of 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."