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 IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonTrump keeps up attacks on 'horrible' McCain, despite calls from GOP, veterans Crenshaw to Trump: 'Stop talking about McCain' Scaramucci: Trump McCain attacks are 'socially unnatural,' 'stupid' 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 McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.), who have been kept up to date on the talks. 

But leaving a meeting held in Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks Overnight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all Dem group launches ads attacking Trump's 'hypocrisy on Medicare and Medicaid cuts' 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 GrahamRomney helps GOP look for new path on climate change Dem senator: 'Appropriate' for Barr, Mueller to testify publicly about Russia probe Conservatives wage assault on Mueller report 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 CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger 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 FlakeTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP 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 CornynConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers Senate votes to confirm Neomi Rao to appeals court MORE (D-Ill.), who has pushed immigration legislation with Graham and Flake.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain Sixteen years later, let's finally heed the call of the 9/11 Commission  Senate Dems introduce bill demanding report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Del.) said most of the Sunday meeting was "procedural."

“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 Jean KlobucharWhy do so many Democrats embrace hate speech? Biden, Sanders edge Trump in hypothetical 2020 matchups in Fox News poll Omar controversies shadow Dems at AIPAC 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.