Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he has the support of at least a handful of Senate Republicans for the 2018 midterm elections.
He said Tuesday he hopes to get a majority of senators in a conference that could help him win reelection to a third term in 2020.
He told reporters the majority has “the ability to get to 60 votes in a majority.”
McConnell said there are no hard-and-fast plans yet on how the chamber will work, but he did say he wants to work with Democrats.
But Democrats want to have a “very serious” conversation about the party’s future and whether they can pass their platform by the end of the year.
“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question about when,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
“If we have a conference agreement, we have to do it before the convention.”
McConnell’s conference agreement with the Democratic caucus is not a formal pact, Schumer said.
McConnell told reporters he is hoping to have the conference deal done by the time the Senate begins its regular session on Jan. 3.
He is hoping for a vote on the platform by March 4, which would allow for a 60-vote threshold to pass.
Republicans are also trying to win over more moderate members of the party, including Sens.
Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah).
The conference agreement would allow them to get more votes on a number of issues, including immigration reform, but it also would give Democrats more leverage to force Republicans to back the party platform.
But the Senate majority leader said he still hopes to find common ground with Democratic members.
He called for the party to “move forward and get things done” in the Senate, and the Democratic leadership has signaled it is willing to work.
“I believe that Democrats are in a position where they have a better chance of being able to get 60 votes to pass a platform than the Republicans, and that is something that we need to look at,” McConnell said.
Democrats have the support in the chamber of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), who is retiring, and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who has said she will retire after the 2020 elections.
The Democratic conference could include moderate Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.), who also has said he will retire.
But McConnell said Democrats still have some work to do.
“The Senate has a long way to go, but there’s a real opportunity here, and there’s more to do,” McConnell told CNN.
“That’s not to say that we won’t get there, but we’re not there yet.
We’ve got a lot of work to make.”
McConnell told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month that his conference deal with the Democrats is the only way to win back the majority.
The agreement includes the goal of passing the Democratic platform by mid-February.
But it would take some time for Republicans to get on board with the agenda, and McConnell said the GOP would continue to work on issues with Democrats, including abortion, taxes and cybersecurity.
Republicans also are still pushing to repeal and replace Obamacare, a goal of the Democratic conference.
McConnell said he wants a “reasonable” replacement plan, and he said the Democratic plan includes some tax cuts, including the Buffett rule.
But he said there is no guarantee that the Republican plan will have the votes needed to pass Congress.
The Senate is scheduled to return to business Monday.