Senate group scrambles for deal to end shutdown

A bipartisan group of roughly 20 senators are working toward an agreement to reopen the government.

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Appeals court nominees languish in Senate as Flake demands tariff vote On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending MORE (R-Ga.) said the group had reached a "consensus of understanding," not an agreement, noting those are two different things.

Multiple senators who were part of the talks stressed that their talks are fluid, and that the final decision rests with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerRed-state Dem tells Schumer to 'kiss my you know what' on Supreme Court vote Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick Trump's latest win: More Americans are saying, 'I quit!' MORE (D-N.Y.), who have been kept up to date on the talks. 

But leaving a meeting held in Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts MORE's (R-Maine) office, some members expressed optimism that they will reach an understanding, if not a final agreement, that would allow them to approve a bill to reopen the government.

The push to end the shutdown comes on the eve of the first weekday in which the full effects of the government closure will start to be felt. Government workers deemed "nonessential" could be kept home without pay, though critical government and military functions would continue.
"This shutdown is going to get a lot worse tomorrow. A lot worse," McConnell said earlier Sunday, ramping up the pressure on Democrats.
"Today would be a good day to end it. All we have to do is pass the commonsense legislation the Senate is currently considering. Ending a government shutdown and ensuring health care continues for vulnerable children — there is nothing in this measure that my Democratic friends cannot support."

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerWhat Trump’s NATO defense plan would mean for the US Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report MORE (R-Tenn.) said that there is a "glimmer of hope" that the Senate could wrap up its work this evening rather than in the middle of the night.

The bipartisan group isn't crafting separate legislation. Senators say the bulk of their talks were about how to get 60 votes for the bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, which would then be paired with a commitment that will satisfy Democrats on bringing up an immigration bill.

Collins said they are trying to reach a consensus on what would constitute a "fair process" on immigration, but declined to go into details, saying the talks are still "in flux."
The House is standing by in case the Senate is able to pass a funding bill Sunday evening, though there's no guarantee that Republicans there will accept a deal that includes an immigration component.
"Then whoever has 60 votes can move ahead," he said. 
But any potential agreement to move forward on immigration may rankle other Republicans, who could view the commitment as caving to Democrats. 
Meanwhile, a coalition of Democrats has been demanding an immigration debate immediately, or within days. 
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynRussians' indictment casts shadow ahead of Trump-Putin summit Top GOP senator: Trump should be 'clear-eyed' going into meeting with Putin Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, predicted the government would still be closed on Monday and said it would be "ridiculous" to agree to promise an immigration vote. 
A coalition of progressive senators were also supposed to meet with Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems launch pressure campaign over migrant families Kavanaugh paper chase heats up Senate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one MORE (D-Ill.), who has pushed immigration legislation with Graham and Flake.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin Sunday shows preview: Washington braces for Trump's Supreme Court pick America stands to lose as China places bets on developing world MORE (D-Del.) said most of the Sunday meeting was "procedural."

“One of the issues is debating, do we need a vote on this issue, or do we need to begin debate on this issue?” Coons said.

Senators left the meeting in Collins's office to brief both McConnell and Schumer.

Flake noted in a tweet that the two leaders — who did not speak on Saturday — were meeting and talking. But a spokesman for Schumer did not respond to a request for comment about the potential talks. 

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBooker seizes on Kavanaugh confirmation fight Democrats build abortion case against Kavanaugh  The animating forces behind the Democratic Party are true, radical leftists MORE (D-Minn.), leaving Schumer's office, said the two leaders needed to talk, but that they were "hours away."

Asked if she was saying lawmakers were hours away from a deal, she quipped that they were hours away from "the end of the night."

— Updated at 6:01 p.m.