Senators voice tempered optimism about push to avoid another shutdown

Democratic and Republican senators are voicing tempered optimism that members of the House and Senate will be able to negotiate a plan to prevent another partial government shutdown next month.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMika Brzezinski gets emotional condemning 'evil' Trump rally 'send her back' chants Trump directed officials to work to free rapper A$AP Rocky after arrest in Sweden Omar stops traffic with impromptu news conference blasting Trump MORE has suggested another shutdown could take place next month or he may declare a national emergency to build a border wall if the 17-member Homeland Security conference committee set to meet for the first time on Wednesday does not provide sufficient border funding by Feb. 15.

The short-term negotiating team, comprised of Democrats and Republicans who sit on the House and Senate appropriation committees, has little more than two weeks to hammer out a deal that will prevent another government shutdown. The longest shutdown in U.S. history, which lasted 35 days, ended last Friday.

"I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt – you've got some good men and women who are part of that group … that is my hope that they are going to get it done.,” moderate GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead MORE (Alaska) told Hill.TV, referring to the bipartisan groups of negotiators.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who represents a state that Trump won in 2016, said he believes the group can get a deal – the question is whether Trump will sign it.

“It's going to be up to [Trump] – I think at the end of the day, my colleagues in the House and Senate will get it done,” Jones said.

The Democratic senator added that "if they can make sure that the administration doesn't fall back on some real hardline policies we can get something done.”

Fellow Democratic Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research MORE (Penn.) said he’s “fairly optimistic” the negotiating team will be able to keep the government open.

Asked if Democrats would be open to supporting a bill with funding for Trump’s proposed border barriers, Casey said: “The group that's coming together – a lot of them are appropriators they are used to working together and making – arriving at an agreement, a consensus on funding."

"There is no guarantee – but it would help if the president was more optimistic – and more constructive," he added.

In the meantime, Republican and Democrats in both chambers are introducing measures to provide “an alternative way forward,” GOP Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyLiberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow Senate GOP raises concerns about White House stopgap plan to avoid shutdown Laura Ingraham says her family won't wear Nike again after 'Betsy Ross flag' sneaker canceled MORE (La.) told Hill.TV.

Cassidy intends to submit a measure that "would use money that the federal government confiscates from drug cartels – and we would use that to fund the wall – it's about $5 billion together."

"In that case it wouldn't be the federal tax payer or the Mexican government but rather the cartels” that pay for building a barrier along the U.S.-southern border, he said.

Other measures to prevent government shutdowns that have been introduced include Democratic Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing MORE’s (Va.) “Stop Stupidity Act” and a separate bill by GOP Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (Ohio) to make sure that even if Congress misses the funding deadline, government agencies continue to operate with pay.

—Molly K. Hooper