"I don't know how to read into it in terms of what compromise opportunities lay ahead," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "What I think it does do is clear the deck of some potentially contentious issues and give everyone space to do the normal legislating and governing."
Buck cited immigration reform and a farm bill as two potential avenues for cooperation next year. House Republicans will gather for a retreat next month to map out a strategy on those issues, as well as a game plan for the next fight over increasing the nation's borrowing ability, which is supposed to hit its limit early next year.
(Read more: Budget deal splits GOP leaders in House, Senate)
It's the shadow of the debt ceiling perhaps more than anything else that has both parties wary of celebrating their end-of-the-year budget compromise. A debt limit standoff between Republicans and the White House brought the country to the brink of a default in October, and both sides are lining up behind their same hard-line positions once again.
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, says Republicans will seek concessions from Democrats in order to raise the debt limit, declaring, "We don't want nothing out of this." But the White House continues to insist that Obama, buoyed by his success in forcing the GOP to bend this fall, will not negotiate over the borrowing limit.
(Read more: Fed late with tapering: Paul Ryan)
"Unless there is massive amounts of self-delusion going on, the Republicans must know that the president is never going to pay ransom for paying America's bills," Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's senior adviser, said.
If Washington can avert another down-to-the-wire debt ceiling fight, White House officials hope to revive a stalled immigration overhaul while also trying to chalk up smaller victories on housing reform and infrastructure spending. And Obama will take a stab at increasing the minimum wage, though his advisers acknowledge that proposal faces tougher opposition from the GOP.
As in past years, the White House will also be looking for areas where Obama can act on his own. One proposal includes getting commitments from private companies to hire Americans who have been unemployed for lengthy periods of time. Executive orders are also likely on climate change and the economy.
With just three years in office left for Obama, Pfeiffer said there's a greater sense of urgency in the White House over making use of presidential powers if December's "kumbaya" moment quickly fades.
"We can't wait around," he said.