For the past four years, Congress has funded government agencies through a series of stopgap spending bills and funding extensions, with numerous threats of shutdowns and U.S. Treasury debt defaults along the way.
The budget fights, fueled by demands for deficit reduction from the Republicans who seized control of the House in 2010 elections, reached a crescendo in October, when disputes over funding of "Obamacare" health insurance reforms prompted a 16-day shutdown for many agencies, idling thousands of federal workers.
(Read more: Obamacare slows health spending-not economy: Orszag)
With public approval ratings plummeting and midterm elections looming in November, Congress has since shown little stomach for further brinkmanship, allowing budget negotiators to craft bipartisan compromises.
But it is far from certain whether those compromises will continue. By March or April, Congress will need to approve another federal debt limit increase, a move that has recently been used by Republicans as a pressure point for more spending cuts.