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 blasts Tester at Montana rally: 'He loves the swamp' Renaming Senate office building after McCain sparks GOP backlash GOP senator warns Trump: Anyone who trash-talks McCain 'deserves a whipping' 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 McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats should end their hypocrisy when it comes to Kavanaugh and the judiciary Celebrities back both Cuomo and Nixon as New Yorkers head to primary vote Dems launch million digital ad buy in top Senate races MORE (D-N.Y.), who have been kept up to date on the talks. 

But leaving a meeting held in Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday White House says Kavanaugh ready to testify over 'false allegation' 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 GrahamCriticizing Trump’s ‘unsung success’ in Puerto Rico is valid — empty rhetoric is not Biden: Delay Kavanaugh vote to give accuser a fair, respectful hearing Ken Starr says 'I trust Brett Kavanaugh' over allegations that are 'so wildly out of character' 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 CorkerMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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 FlakeGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt Murkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday 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 CornynKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Grassley: Kavanaugh accuser 'deserves to be heard' in 'appropriate' manner 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 DurbinTop Senate Dem: Public hearing is ‘only way to go’ for Kavanaugh accuser Durbin calls for delay in Kavanaugh vote Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh MORE (D-Ill.), who has pushed immigration legislation with Graham and Flake.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSunday shows preview: White House officials on offensive in wake of anonymous NY Times op-ed Congress and Trump are out of step on intellectual property White House drops plan to cut foreign aid 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 KlobucharGOP in striking distance to retake Franken seat Warner: 'overwhelming majority' of Republicans would back social media regulations Republicans block Democratic bid to subpoena Kavanaugh documents 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.