Greg Sargent observes:
One possible scenario that reform proponents dread is that Congress fails to pass reform before the Easter break — leaving Congressional Dems in the position of returning to their constituents empty-handed, just as they did over last summer’s recess. In the Capitol just now, a top spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi refused to endorse the White House’s prefered timetable for passing reform. Yesterday Robert Gibbs declared, perhaps unrealistically, that the White House would like the House to pass the Senate bill by March 18th, before the President goes abroad.
There are a few points worth noting. First, it’s quite obvious that Pelosi is a long way from getting her votes lined up. There is no reason to drag this out, unless, of course, Pelosi still can’t put together a majority. Jake Tapper has been keeping an unofficial whip count and there is far more bad news than good news for Pelosi, as the no’s are hardening and previous supporters are turning undecided. Second, the underlying problem, as it was last year, is that their members need to be kept as far from the voters as possible. Send them back home with the vote still pending and they risk an avalanche of opposition. Not in recent memory (or ever?) can I recall congressional leaders so wary of their members’ encounter with the electorate. That alone should tell those wavering members something. And finally, the time when Congress took the White House very seriously is over: the White House can no longer influence the substance, let alone the timing, of the vote on the bill. Right now it comes down to House Democrats — can they be bullied into doing something so plainly not in their self-interest? Stay tuned.