Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has quietly established a group of about a dozen GOP senators to come up with budget alternatives in case the conference committee fails to reach a deal.

McConnell, who faces a tough primary and general election in 2014, wants to avoid another government shutdown at the beginning of next year and to ensure his conference is unified on how to proceed if the budget conferees can't come to an agreement.

The GOP took a hit in the polls after the shutdown, shouldering most of the blame. McConnell's group, which represents a cross section of the conference, met Wednesday afternoon to explore the options in case they face a similar situation if the budget conference committee fails to meet its Jan. 15 deadline.