Speaker Nancy Pelosi is caught between several rocks and several hard places. What seemed to be a clear, but rocky path through both houses of Congress has now become a narrow, treacherous path to save President Obama’s hallmark piece of legislation. Even Pelosi herself classifies the new effort as “problematic” and may be no-win situation for all involved.
The Path Of No Return
On the one side are liberal Democratic representatives who view the existing Senate bill before the House as lacking. On the other is Republican lawmakers who are still stinging from a near virtual shutout during negotiations. And hanging over the whole scene is the stunning election of a Republican, yes, a Republican, to fill Senator Ted Kennedy’s vacant seat in the Senate, as well as recent Republican wins in New Jersey and Virginia. Couple that with a majority of polls showing the public opinion against the current proposal, and it is easy to see Pelosi’s apprehension.
The Way Out Of The Forest
So Pelosi has adopted a wait-and-see approach. Knowing that the votes aren’t there to pass the current Senate version, the Speaker has opted to play the only card she really has left. She won’t bring the current bill to a vote. Instead, she will hope that President Obama’s recent overtures to congressional Republicans and stiff rebuke of partisan politics during the State of the Union address will bring dividends. Her hope is that Republicans will be amenable to accepting a toned-down version of the Senate legislation with some Republican ideas thrown in to gain opposition support. But even that is a gamble, as Republicans feel emboldened by the recent change in the electoral wind and may refuse to acquiesce in light of past strong arm tactics by the Democrats.