Lawmakers expressed a note of optimism that they might finally hammer out a budget for the rest of the year once they return from recess Monday, though Republicans and Democrats continued to complicate that prospect by trading insults.
The government has been operating on a string of temporary budgets since last year. The latest is a three-week stopgap scheduled to expire April 8, and if lawmakers cannot reach an agreement before that deadline they will have to either hammer out another stopgap or let the federal government partially shut down.
Neither is ideal, lawmakers say. And they claim to be making progress on a budget that could last through the end of fiscal 2011.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday that Republicans are agreeing to fewer cuts, while Democrats are agreeing to more.
"We've come a long way. I think we're very close to an agreement. We're very close to a number that could be agreed on," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told Fox News last week.
But no deal has been announced, and the two parties haven't exactly called a truce.
Hoyer accused Republicans of pulling a number "out of the air" by initially calling for $100 billion in cuts.
Schumer then accused House Speaker John Boehner of getting pulled down by the Tea Partiers.
"Instead of lashing out at Democrats in a kneejerk way, we hope House Republicans will finally stand up to the Tea Party and resume the negotiations that had seemed so full of promise," he said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., responded that Republicans have no reason to be "embarrassed" by the Tea Party and should be "carrying that message" in the budget talks.
"We can't ignore their message," McCain told Fox News. "Their message is clearly that they want significant spending cuts."
Republicans originally called for $100 billion in cuts, later producing a plan that actually would cut $61 billion from last year's levels. The first stopgap passed this year achieved $4 billion in cuts, and the second stopgap achieved $6 billion in cuts. Now, lawmakers are arguing over the remaining $50 billion.
The GOP has not been shy about pressuring Democrats, despite the risk of a government shutdown.
Boehner said in a statement that Democrats have not produced a "credible, long-term plan" since the House passed a 2011 budget a month ago.
"The status quo is unacceptable, and right now that is all Washington Democrats are offering," he said.
David Schweikert, R-Ariz., further accused the Senate of not playing ball.
"Much of our great frustration in the House is trying to figure out who is in charge of the U.S. Senate," he told Fox News. "We've done a two-week, we've done a three-week. And we don't seem to have a partner to work on this in the Senate."
Leaders in both parties are facing pressure from their base to achieve certain things out of the budget debate, which could set the tone for the debate over the 2012 budget. Democrats want to keep Republicans from cutting too deeply into treasured social programs, while Republicans are, as Schumer said, taking heat from Tea Partiers who demand significant cuts this year.
Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., said Washington needs to deal with the debt, but not at the expense of things like job-training programs and college assistance.
"We've got to look at the overall big picture," Clarke said.
Still, he said, "we're going to find common ground."
Fox News' Peter Doocy contributed to this report.