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Durbin: Reach a deal to avoid 'fiscal cliff' or 'pay the price'

The Illinois senator, who was a member of the so-called "Gang of Six," said he's "confident" about the prospects of reaching a deal, despite past failed efforts.

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"When you turn off these lights and microphones and senators from both parties sit down in a room together, we can all see the writing on the wall. We all know what we have to do. As difficult as it may be for Democrats and Republicans, we know what this nation needs," said Durbin on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Durbin said that if business, labor and citizens encourage the Senate to take on fiscal issues in an honest and fair manner, an agreement can be reached between Democrats and Republicans.

"It won't be done before the election, let's be honest about it" he added.

The senator called for a six-month interim plan to be put in place immediately after the presidential contest is over.

He told MSNBC that to avoid economic instability and reach a bipartisan deal, the deficit would have to be reduced during the interim period, decisions must to be reached on tax reform and revenue, and a target for debt reduction over the next 10 years must be set.

Durbin said the December deadline is forcing lawmakers to be "honest" about timely deficit reduction.

"It is a reality in this town, people always look for excuses. December 31st, no excuses. Do something or pay the price," Durbin said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pleaded with lawmakers Tuesday to take swift action to avoid steep tax hikes and spending cuts set to begin in January.

Addressing the cliff is the “most effective way Congress could help to support the economy right now.”

Read more on Bernanke's testimony on The Hill's On The Money blog.