Lawmakers from the House and Senate began meeting Wednesday to look for ways to agree on a budget.
After the recent shutdown in Washington, Republicans and Democrats remain divided on how best to fund the government.
Meanwhile, across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, have hit federal agencies hard. Negotiators are trying to put together a smaller-scale deal to soften the sequester.
But the two parties remain at odds over how to replace the cuts.
Democrats don't want to replace by trimming programs like Medicare or Medicaid, and Republicans are opposed to raising revenue.
Experts say expectations are limited given the bitter history, but both sides desire to reach a workable consensus that would win favor among both GOP and Democratic defenders.
"I'm always optimistic," Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said. "Do I think it will happen? I don't know."