KARL: But back to my question here, how could the White House be working on a draft -- even if it's a White House draft -- without at least talking to Republicans about it? I mean, has the president even met with Marco Rubio yet on immigration?
MCDONOUGH: Well, we're talking with all the parties to the gang of eight effort in the Senate. Jon --
KARL: He says there's been no consultation.
MCDONOUGH: We've been working with all the members up there. We have our staff working this very aggressively with their staffs and with the members, and we're working this very aggressively, as you think we would with such a high priority for the country.
This immigration system is broken. Border security, we've made great progress for the last four years. We want to build on that. And we're going to continue to work with Senator Rubio and others on this.
But he says it's dead on arrival if it's proposed. Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed. Let's make sure that that group up there, the gang of eight, makes good progress on these efforts, as much as they say they want to, and that's exactly what we intend to do, to work with them.
KARL: So what do you say to Marco Rubio on this? I mean, he's saying half-baked, flawed. What do you say to him? How do you do some damage control on this?
MCDONOUGH: Well, I am not going to get engaged in that kind of a back and forth as is often the practice here in Washington, a big kind of political scrum, even before we've had actual proposal of--
KARL: It's already here. He started it. Right, I mean--
MCDONOUGH: Well, look, I'm not going to engage, as I said, in some kind of back and forth. What I am going to do is make sure that our team is doing exactly what the president has demanded us to do, and what he said to the country in the State of the Union the other night, which is we have to make progress on immigration reform. We should enact this this year, and the president will continue to work with the team to make sure that happens.
KARL: OK, I want to move to the other big battle you have coming up right now with Congress. The so-called sequester, these automatic spending cuts. We've heard some dire warnings about what they would mean. We've heard 70,000 kids kicked off Head Start, the equivalent of 1,000 FBI agents off the job, the Navy shutting down four air wings, delaying the deployment of a carrier striker to the Persian Gulf, and we've even had a senator talk about five-hour wait times at airports if these cuts go into effect.
So tell me straight with me, how bad will it be if it happens?
MCDONOUGH: Well, you didn't even raise the thing that concerns the president most about the sequester, which is we've seen pretty good economic activity over the course of the last several months. The housing market is healing. The stock market is coming back. You've seen consumer confidence restored. So the lens through which the president looks at this fight, Jon, is a lens that says, are we doing everything we can in this country to strengthen middle class families? That's how our country, our economy is strongest, when a thriving, rising middle class is the engine for growth in this economy. That's exactly what we want to do.