GOP senators speculate on how shutdown will end

GOP senators have a number of theories on how the partial government shutdown, currently in its third week, will end.

GOP Sen. Lindsay Graham (S.C.) is working on a broader immigration reform package he hopes to wed to border security funding in a compromise designed to reopen the government.

Others in his party fear a national emergency declaration is the only way to end the shutdown.

"I do believe people in the conference are going to play around with the idea of adding things to the border wall,” Graham told reporters following President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE’s meeting with Senate Republicans in the Capitol on Wednesday. Trump's border wall request triggered the current stalemate over government funding. Democrats have refused to vote for legislation that would fund a wall.

"I don't see the Democrats all of a sudden giving in on $5.7 billion for steel barriers or whatever you want to call it, but I do believe there are a lot of them that would provide border security money if you had something for it,” Graham added.

Still, some in Graham’s party, such as Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGoogle official denies allegations of ties to China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book MORE (R-Texas), didn’t see an exchange of border wall funding for immigration reforms that many in the party would see as "amnesty" as a viable solution.

Trump on Wednesday also signaled he's not open to trading an amnesty deal for so-called Dreamers for border wall funding.

"I think if you get a bunch of us saying it, I think it would change his mind," Graham said of Trump.

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said Trump is “resolute” that border wall funding be part of any end to the partial government shutdown, and posed four possible scenarios in which the government reopens.

“Number one – the president blinks: ain’t going to happen. No. 2: Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi (D-Calif.) blinks. I don't think she's going to blink, not until she can see the wisdom of a wall. No. 3: governments stays closed. No. 4: the president uses his emergency powers,” Kennedy said, noting that Trump “mentioned” declaring a national emergency at the GOP meeting on Wednesday. "It's clear he's considering it.”

"I'm not recommending that he do that. I'm also not like some of my colleagues who think that if he does choose to do that it will be the end of Western civilization,” Kennedy added.

Declaring a national emergency may be the only way to end the shutdown, GOP Senator Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeTrump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase Warren spars with Trump's top Defense nominee over ethics MORE (R-Okla.) told reporters as he walked to the Capitol for the meeting with Trump.

“That's one, maybe the only one I can think of right now,” said Inhofe, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I don’t want that to happen by the way,” he added.

Democrats strongly oppose Trump's threatened use of emergency powers to build a border wall. Key Democratic senators such as Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D-Vt.) have questioned the legality of Trump hypothetically using it in the current situation. Democrats say there is no current "national emergency" that could justify such a move.

But although Republicans maintain that Trump is willing to negotiate, neither side was willing to bet when the shutdown would end.

“It could be tomorrow, it could be weeks, it could be days,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal GOP struggles to find backup plan for avoiding debt default MORE (R-Ala.) said.

— Molly K. Hooper