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 marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes 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 MurkowskiTrump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Republicans push for help for renewable energy, fossil fuel industries 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 CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Warren's VP bid faces obstacle: Her state's Republican governor Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers 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 CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act 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 WarnerOn The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response Grenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts MORE’s (Va.) “Stop Stupidity Act” and a separate bill by GOP Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSoured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet On The Money: McConnell: Talking about fifth coronavirus bill 'in next month or so' | Boosted unemployment benefits on the chopping block | Women suffering steeper job losses from COVID-19 Kudlow: 0-per-week boost to unemployment benefits won't 'survive the next round of talks' MORE (Ohio) to make sure that even if Congress misses the funding deadline, government agencies continue to operate with pay.

—Molly K. Hooper