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 IsaksonJohnny IsaksonHerschel Walker calls off fundraiser with woman who had swastika in Twitter profile Georgia reporter says state will 'continue to be a premier battleground' Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms 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 McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE (D-N.Y.), who have been kept up to date on the talks. 

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But leaving a meeting held in Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall 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.

 
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.) predicted that senators could get a deal before a scheduled 1 a.m. procedural vote in the Senate.

"Yeah, because if it doesn't happen tonight, it's going to be a lot harder," he said.
 
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 CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  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.

After leaving McConnell's office, Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeRubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay MORE (R-Ariz.) said the potential compromise would include a commitment to take up immigration after Feb. 8, with floor action possible sooner if they could get a larger deal. 
 
"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 CornynMental health: The power of connecting requires the power of investing Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 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 DurbinDick DurbinGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case MORE (D-Ill.), who has pushed immigration legislation with Graham and Flake.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSenators: US allies concerned Senate won't pass annual defense bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay Can America prevent a global warming cold war? MORE (D-Del.) said most of the Sunday meeting was "procedural."

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“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 KlobucharSunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden renominates Powell as Fed chair Senate Democrats look to fix ugly polling numbers 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.