Lawmakers say they're closing in on border deal to prevent shutdown

Lawmakers on Thursday said they are closing in on an agreement to prevent a second partial government shutdown and resolve the months-long fight over President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE's proposed border wall.
 
Congress has until Feb. 15 to send the president legislation, but negotiators consider Monday their unofficial deadline to ensure an agreement has enough time to make it through both chambers and to Trump's desk by next Friday.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
"I hope we can get this concluded, and the next 72 hours are very crucial," Shelby said. "The trajectory is very positive right now."
 
He added that a deal would likely not be reached on Thursday night, adding "but you never know." 
 
Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 MORE (D-Mont.), also on the 17-member conference committee tasked with hammering out a deal, told reporters Thursday that an agreement was possible as soon as Friday, according to Reuters.
 
“[It's] entirely possible we could have a deal in a timely manner, which could be tomorrow but certainly by the weekend," he said.
 
Congress has until Feb. 15 to get legislation to Trump's desk that would fund roughly a quarter of the government and resolve the stalemate on funding for a border wall. The president on Jan. 25 agreed to sign a three-week continuing resolution in exchange for Congress negotiating a deal on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding. He hasn't ruled out declaring a national emergency if the spending impasse is not resolved.
 
The acceleration of negotiations is a drastic turnaround from Monday, when the bicameral conference committee was off to a painfully slow start and had not, according to lawmakers, begun talking about "substance" yet.
 
But there were signs of progress on Thursday, when Shelby briefed Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House about the negotiations.
 
The Alabama Republican appeared optimistic after he returned from the White House, saying that if a deal stayed within the "parameters" he discussed with the president, he believed Trump would sign it.
 
"If we can work within some of the parameters that we've talked about today … I think he would sign it," Shelby said. "And I think he's, from my perspective, been quite reasonable."

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Trump was noncommittal about the spending negotiations.

"Both sides are moving along. We'll see what happens," he said at the White House. "We need border security. We have to have it. It's not an option. Let's see what happens."

One administration official said the conference committee negotiations are “going well.”

“Hope to have a deal wrapped up by this weekend," the official said, adding that it’s dependent on Trump.

Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas Graves5 Republicans who could replace Isakson in Georgia's Senate race The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Democrats see golden opportunity to take Georgia Senate seat MORE (R-Ga.) told The Hill "things are tracking in a better direction.”

“I think the rigid positions are softening up and folks are looking towards, ‘How do you bring us together? How do you land this plane?’" he said.

In addition to Trump, any agreement would need to get approval from congressional leadership. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico This week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Schumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill MORE (D-Calif.) said she was being a "non-interventionist" on the talks and had urged the White House to take the same position. 
 
"Just let them do their work, and then hopefully, that will get some good news in a short period of time," she told reporters.
  
Shelby also briefed the Senate GOP caucus about his talk with Trump during a closed-door policy lunch.
 
"I think it wouldn't be talking out of school here to say he said it was a really good meeting with the president and he feels more optimistic than he has up until now," Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.) said after the lunch.
 
Shelby then spoke with Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, after his White House meeting on Thursday. He is expected to speak later with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.).
 
Leahy, after Schumer and Democratic conferees met on Thursday, was noncommittal about whether they would get a deal by Monday. But, he added, they had made "great progress" and that he was clearing his weekend schedule. 
 
"We're negotiating the final number, and that's why I've turned down all the weekend shows and everything else, just because I'll negotiate with Republicans and Democrats," Leahy said.
 
Niv Elis and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.
 
Updated at 5:09 p.m.