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Durbin warns against 'heat of the moment' entitlement reforms

Durbin said Congress would not have sufficient time to vet the long-term impact of changes to the programs and should hold off on making rushed decisions.

"Whatever changes we want to make should be thoughtful changes, not made in the heat of the fiscal cliff," Durbin told CNN. "Not done in the closing days here, of a lame duck session. Let's look at this thoughtfully and make sure at the end of the day Medicare is going to survive and be stronger."

Many Republicans have said they would only consider allowing taxes on the wealthiest to rise if Democrats agreed to wide-scale entitlement reform, as lawmakers seek a deal to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff."

"What we need to put on the table in short-term is actual deficit reduction. We can do that through mandatory spending cuts in other areas," Durbin said.

Nevertheless, Durbin remained optimistic that party leaders would be able to strike a deal before the December 31 deadline.

"I do believe we can," Durbin said. "The president and the speaker are the ones who are focused now on the negotiation, both parties have to stand behind an effort to find that bipartisan solution."

Durbin was also asked during the interview about Republican meetings on Capitol Hill with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Some in the GOP have criticized Rice for statements she made shortly after the September terrorist attack in Benghazi linking the violence to protests over an anti-Islam YouTube video.

Rice said Tuesday that she had been wrong about the cause of the violence, but was relying on talking points provided by the intelligence community and did not intend to mislead the public. But some high-level Senate Republicans, including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that after meeting with Rice on Tuesday, they remained skeptical of her explanation and would likely not support her potential nomination as Secretary of State.

Durbin said Wednesday the situation has "become entirely too personal."

"Frankly, I think they believe she's vulnerable politically — at least that's their conclusion," Durbin said. "It's not mine. The fact of the matter is she had nothing to do with the terrible event that occurred in Benghazi. She reported it as she was told by the intelligence agency and frankly they've been piling on ever since and I just think it's gone to the point where it's unfair."

Durbin also refuted Republicans who have pointed out that Rice had access to information suggesting terrorists had been behind the violence, suggesting she focused on the prospect of the YouTube video to protect intelligence sources.

"What the intelligence community was trying to protect was its sources," Durbin said. "People whose lives were on the line, and they were making a careful judgment about what they can say publicly that might endanger their sources of information."

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