Already, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman has told environmental groups that while he aims to have the greenhouse-gas legislation they have pushed hard for ready by Memorial Day, he'll be competing with House and Senate working groups aiming to have a health-care-reform bill done at about the same time. (See pictures of how global warming is changing the face of the planet.)
The tanking economy may be a boon for much of Obama's agenda, but not necessarily for the environment. "The existence of a large pool of unemployed people creates, as close as economics ever has, the possibility of a free lunch for economic policy, because it means you can get more stuff by putting people to work," says a top Administration official. "That's why I think there is a lot of potential in this moment." But the same reasoning doesn't work for a global-warming bill. "That would be more complicated," says the official.