About a month ago, before the economic recovery debate started on Capitol Hill, I wondered aloud
about the wisdom of setting clear, public deadlines for Congress to pass a stimulus bill.
When a politician starts the clock on a major initiative, the resulting flood of media coverage and public expectation makes it well-nigh impossible to avoid losing momentum after even a small stumble. And given the lack of consensus in the Senate -- even among Democrats
-- on how to move forward, it's hard to see the stimulus bill being approved by the end of the week, as the White House and congressional leaders had hoped
Now, anything can happen. There could be a breakthrough on infrastructure spending tomorrow that creates a palpable shift. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) could win enough fellow centrists
to downsize the legislation, with the president's blessing.
But in order for the stimulus to pass the Senate by Friday, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would need to move to cut off debate on the bill ("filing for cloture
," in Senate parlance) by tomorrow. And given how many Democrats are holding back from full support right now, I suspect that Republicans would answer that move with a successful filibuster.
Still, everything changes quickly in the Capitol. We'll keep you posted.