Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin on "Face the Nation," Jan. 21, 2018

Durbin calls on Trump

The first government shutdown since 2013 is entering its second day with few signs that Congress will be able to reach a deal on spending and immigration and reopen the government. 

Members of both parties are exchanging charges of blame for the stalemate. Republicans want Democrats to agree to a short-term spending bill while lawmakers continue work on an immigration package, while Democrats demand an immigration deal be included in any spending agreement.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois is one of the Democrats leading the charge in the Senate. He joined us Sunday to discuss the shutdown and where lawmakers go from here.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Durbin that aired Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with the Senate Democratic Whip, Richard Durbin. Senator, welcome. There seems to be a deal in conversation about opening the government up, funding it for a few more weeks if there's a promise there will be an ultimate vote on DACA. Is that something Democrats can agree to?

RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I can tell you we're working on it on a bipartisan basis, and I'm glad we are. I'm sorry we're in this situation, but I think it bears repeating how we got here. The Republicans are in control of every branch of government, the presidency of course, the House, the Senate, and through their nominees, the Supreme Court.

And the Republicans are in complete control of the business that comes before the House and the Senate. Speaker Ryan is a friend of mine, another Midwesterner, he overlooks the fact that the president challenged us on September the 5th to deal with the DACA problem. And as yet, we haven't seen any hearings on any bills in the Senate.

JOHN DICKERSON: But the Senate needs 60 votes, and Democrats are the ones who voted to not get the 60 and--

RICHARD DURBIN: And that is--

JOHN DICKERSON: the (UNINTEL) vote I should say.

RICHARD DURBIN: --but let me just add, and I think this is key and why we call it the Trump Shutdown, there was an effort made at the invitation of President Trump for Chuck Schumer to come to the White House on Friday and avoid this. They sat down for lunch, four of them, both president, Schumer, each of them brought their aides (John Kelly and Mike Lynch) and they reached a basic agreement. In that agreement, Chuck Schumer made major concessions to the president to get this job done. Two hours later the White House called and said, "It's over, we're not interested."

JOHN DICKERSON:  And I want to get to those other concessions in a minute. But okay, so there's a little floppiness. Why not keep the government open and figure it out over the next few little periods? You guys - You're pretty close, why--

RICHARD DURBIN:  This is the--

JOHN DICKERSON:  --shut the government down?

RICHARD DURBIN: --this is the fourth continuing resolution. There's been a consistent failure by the Republican leadership in Congress to deal with these critical issues. We don't want to see this situation as it currently exists, but we want to see a solution that has meaning and one that will serve this nation. We're lurching from one continuing resolution to the next. Do you know what the Secretary of Navy said? "Continuing resolutions have cost the United States Navy $4 billion."

JOHN DICKERSON:  Well, that--

RICHARD DURBIN: Enough for us to make sure not only sailors are paid, but that we build the resources we need to keep the nation safe.

JOHN DICKERSON: But here's the thing, Democrats are contributory in this mess everybody is in. And by choosing to force this into a shutdown situation, everybody's now going to their corners, the president's running the kind of ads he is. Does that befoul things so badly that you can't get an agreement?

RICHARD DURBIN: It doesn't have to. Do you remember January 9th, you might have seen the president left the cameras on in the cabinet room and we sat with him? I was sitting right next to him, it was the fourth time we'd ever had a conversation. And we were talking about DACA and Dreamers, and the president said, "You send me a bill and I will sign it." Within 48 hours, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and I presented a bill to him which was summarily rejected. So what happened to Schumer happened to us. We can't reach the agreement we need for this nation without leadership from a president.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me interrupt you there, we'll be right there, Senator hold on a moment. We'll need to take a break, but we've got more questions for the senator and we'll be right back, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to "Face the Nation" and our conversation with the number two Democrat in the Senate, Richard Durbin. Senator, I want to read you some quotes here from various people, including Senator Schumer who in 2015 said, "A government shutdown would deal a huge blow to our economy." Bernie Sanders said, "It is wrong for the right-wing Republicans to ignore the results of the last election and hold the American people hostage by threatening to shut down the government." You said, "Open the government. When you open the government, we'll open negotiations." So why was it bad then and okay now?

RICHARD DURBIN: It's not a good thing to do at any point. We have reached a desperate situation. This was the fourth continuing resolution. The Republican-controlled Congress has refused to fund the government, been unable to fund the government. They can't resolve the issues within their own ranks. And so they give us one continuing resolution after the next. And now we are piling up all the things that need to be done. And now we are facing a deadline created by President Trump when it comes to DACA. So we feel there's a urgency for us to come together and do it quickly. And I hope it's just a matter of hours or days. But we need to have a substantive answer. And the only person who can lead us to that is President Trump. This is his shutdown.

JOHN DICKERSON: The dead - They obviously say it's yours. And that's what we're in. But the deadline's not till March. Why shut things down now?

RICHARD DURBIN: Listen. It's been four and a half months since President Trump set this deadline and said that 780,000 young people who are protected in this country from deportation and can legally work are going to start losing that protection 1,000 a day on March 5th. What had the Republicans in the Senate done in the four and a half months since? Nothing. What we have done, three Republican, three Democratic senators, is to craft a bill, to put this bill before our colleagues and to put it before the president on a bipartisan basis. We're trying to solve the problem the president created.

JOHN DICKERSON: Speaker Ryan, you heard him. He was out here. He said, "They've had their solutions on DACA, but it's the Senate Democrats who are filibustering."

RICHARD DURBIN:  What he said unfortunately-- and Paul's my friend -- is, he refers to this bipartisan negotiation. Kevin McCarthy, whom I like very much. We've been doing this for 12 days. 12 days with this deadline looming. Our bill that we crafted, our bipartisan bill, took four months. We took it seriously. We took the president's invitation to offer a bill seriously, as Chuck Schumer did when he went down to the White House. President Donald Trump has to step up and lead us at this point. He can do it.

JOHN DICKERSON: You know, you've gone back to the president's comments where he said, "I'll take whatever bill." But it's perfectly reasonable for a president to take into consideration all the moving pieces. If he says, "Okay, we'll go with the Durbin bill," that'll never pass the House. Plus, he's got his own constituencies. I mean, he's allowed to change his mind, isn't he?

RICHARD DURBIN:  Of course he is. But at some point he has to make a decision. Make a decision about whether or not we're going to forward as a nation. That's what we've been waiting on. And as we look at this issue, whether it's DACA or the larger agenda that Chuck Schumer has addressed, he'll make a decision, he'll embrace it, and with - within two hours do a pirouette and be off in another direction.

JOHN DICKERSON: What is the position among Democrats right now on funding the wall? The president wants 18 billion or 20 billion. Is there a number now that Democrats are--

RICHARD DURBIN: Chuck Schumer made a significant offer to the president. And it wasn't just an authorization, although I think that is the way you run a government. You authorize a project, and then you say to the administration, "Give us your plans. How are you going to spend the money? We don't want to waste it." But he also made a concession to the president on actual appropriations so the president would not be slowed down at all. Do you know how much money from the 2017 appropriation for walls, and fences, and barriers has been spent so far? One percent.

JOHN DICKERSON:  Did he meet the president's terms in that meeting?

RICHARD DURBIN:  I think he did because the president said, "We have an understanding." Two hours later, called him and said, "It's off."

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that Oval Office meeting. It's been adjudicated like crazy. But you have Republican senators questioning you. What does that make the cloakroom like when you're passing them? Do you say, "Hey, wait a minute. You've said I told an untruth, and don't go doing that"? I mean, it should lead to confrontation of some sort.

RICHARD DURBIN:  John, I stand by every word. My Republican colleagues know exactly what the president said. And I do, too. I was the only Democrat in the room. At least one of the Republicans, Lindsey Graham, has said that I was accurate, what I said. Others have said they've forgotten. We had the Secretary Nielsen of DHS. She seemed to forget the words that were said. I can't forget them.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Durbin, thanks so much for being with us. And we'll be right back with our panel.