But fiscal hawks are skeptical of undoing the sequester set up in the Budget Control Act for fear of increasing the deficit. On Tuesday, Enzi sided with the fiscal hawks, offering not an additional cent for defense funding.
With Republican leaders hoping to pass each budget on the party line, their margins for error are incredibly small, particularly in the Senate. Already, Sens. Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain have said they will not support a budget that doesn't increase defense spending. If they vote no, then one more defection would mean the budget fails.
The Senate budget also does not include any of the House's overhauls to entitlement programs. Although both budgets call for a reconciliation process to overturn the Affordable Care Act, the Senate draft is much more vague on policy than the House's, calling for certain savings without really outlining how to get there.
Ultimately, the Senate budget would reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion over 10 years, compared to $5.6 trillion in the House budget.
McConnell still has to worry about the 24 members who face reelection next year, eight of them in blue and purple states—not to mention the three potential presidential candidates in his conference who will be working to stake out their territory on the fiscal right.
So far, the most vulnerable members in 2016 seem to have been satisfied. Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio both indicated support for the reserve fund plan Tuesday afternoon, but still needed to consult the budget that had been released to the public just minutes before.
And Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Monday that he was concerned about defense funding, but that passing a budget remained priority No. 1 for now. After all, any additional funding for the Pentagon will have to be dealt with in a separate bill and in the appropriations process; a budget has to come first.
"I'm for whatever we can do in terms of gaining consensus within our conference so that we have a House budget, a Senate budget, we reconcile those two so we can start an appropriation process. And I think we're going to have to kind of figure out the details later," he said. "I'm going to be supportive of a budget so that we can start that process."
Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican who faces reelection in blue Illinois next year, said that his support for the budget would be dependent on defense funding because of his position as an appropriator who chairs the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs subcommittee.
"I'm pretty defensive about military construction to make sure that troops are not living in bamboo huts with thatched roofs," Kirk said.
But Kirk added that he was still looking at the details of the reserve fund before making a decision on the overall bill.
The fear of losing defense hawks, who make up a vast contingent of the party's establishment base, is pervasive in both chambers—so much so that House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and a strong ally of Ryan's, found the money.