Okay, well that would have been to pass health care in both the House and Senate prior to the August recess, as the president initially wanted.

But, given that that's not likely to happen, what's the second best strategy? The assumption seems to be that it's passing a bill in the House and then brokering some tentative compromise (but not yet passing it) in the Senate. As the AP reported this morning:

After more than a week of tirelessly pressuring Congress to move his top domestic priority, President Barack Obama may have to settle for a fallback strategy on health care overhaul.

Instead of votes in the House and Senate by August, the best Democrats may be able to hope for this summer is action by the full House by the end of the month and some sort of agreement on a bipartisan plan in the Senate before lawmakers head home for vacation.

But is that really such a good idea? It strikes me as the worst of all worlds--you've spelled out the details of a health care plan, but you've got nothing that's legislatively binding. That gives critics over a good month (during the August recess) to pick the plan apart, after which the Senate can come back and promptly chicken out. Given that you're not going to pass something in both houses by August, wouldn't it be better to pass nothing in either chamber and stay mum on the details? That would obviously delay the process a bit, but it strikes me as the best way to remove the target from the backs of weak-kneed congressmen and senators, and to keep the opposition disorganized and guessing for as long as possible. Better to get a delayed bill in October than a straight-up defeat in September...

--Noam Scheiber