With few signs of progress emerging from the budget conference committee's negotiations, at least two of its members have already begun discussing a Plan B.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., both sit on the conference committee — and they're also members of a working group that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has formed to discuss alternatives in case the budget conference fails to reach an agreement.
"I think the hope would be that all members of the budget conference are working to get a deal in this budget conference," one Senate Democratic aide said, when informed of Ayotte's and Johnson's involvement in the McConnell discussions.
But Ayotte argued that her participation should not be taken as a sign that she believes the budget conference committee will fail. "I think it just shows you that we want solutions and we want to make sure that the government's not shut down again," she said.
For his part, Johnson said that he is still hopeful for a conference deal but that he and the working group are engaged in discussions to find alternative ways to keep the government open. "There's an awful lot that we don't agree on," Johnson said of the budget negotiations. "That's continued to create these impasses where we haven't been able to really reach agreements."