WASHINGTON - Congress headed home this weekend for a nine-day break, leaving behind much of the trouble it was elected to help ease.

Remember the federal budget conflict? It remains as messy as ever, as lawmakers aren't even formally negotiating a compromise.

The automatic spending cuts known as the sequester? Lots of talk about the problems they cause, but this week the only relief went to the air-traffic system, just as Congress headed home - many members by way of the nation's airports.

Gun control? Forget it, for now. Immigration? See you in May.

Congress had just returned to work April 8 after a 16-day recess for Easter and Passover. It stayed in session for about three weeks, then left again Friday for a spring recess that's scheduled to last until May 6. The reasons for the latest exodus: Keep in touch with the folks back home and allow lawmakers time to think about priorities and strategy.

This past month had promised to be more productive, or at least more collegial. President Obama has been hosting dinners with Republican lawmakers, and he offered a detailed federal budget plan. Senate Democrats and House of Representatives Republicans had already passed theirs.

The next step is for top negotiators from the two parties to sit down and figure out a common budget outline. That would become the blueprint for more specific spending and revenue decisions, and it would guide Congress as it prepares a budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

While some high-level talks proceed, Republicans won't appoint negotiators. Such delays are not uncommon, but this year is different. Three budgets are on the table, and the public is intensely interested.

Still, said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., there's no point in Republicans naming negotiators, known as conferees. "Democrats have drawn a line," he said. "They won't give on tax increases."

Obama and Senate Democrats have proposed raising nearly $1 trillion in revenue over the next decade.

The two big non-budget issues in the spotlight this month - gun control and immigration - also are to be continued. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to begin writing an immigration bill May 9.