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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 MurkowskiCongress must press Interior secretary to act on climate change Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Women's civil rights are not a state issue 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 CaseyWhy Congress needs to bring back tax deduction for worker expenses Biden cements spot as 2020 front-runner The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's bid gets under Trump's skin 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 CassidySenate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills 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 WarnerSenate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Dem senator introduces bill requiring campaigns to report foreign contacts Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon MORE’s (Va.) “Stop Stupidity Act” and a separate bill by GOP Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage Companies warn Trump trade war is about to hit consumers MORE (Ohio) to make sure that even if Congress misses the funding deadline, government agencies continue to operate with pay.

—Molly K. Hooper