The Obama administration's passage of a sweeping health-care revamp has scrambled Republicans' strategic calculations on Capitol Hill, forcing the GOP to decide whether to maintain its largely unified opposition to Democratic proposals.
On key pieces of legislation, including a revamp of financial rules and a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law, some Republicans are either explicitly on board or could soon be so. For most of the Obama presidency, the party has moved in lock-step opposition, which has helped coalesce a revitalized conservative movement in recent months.
But some Republicans feel these two issues in particular—education and financial regulation—are harder to oppose for political reasons.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has consulted closely with Republicans, has produced a plan to maintain most of the standards in former President George W. Bush's education law, while giving school boards and the nation's nearly 100,000 public schools more flexibility in achieving them.
Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, said that while he has some concerns about Obama's plan, "I'm still very supportive."
On an overhaul of financial regulations, which is currently before the Senate, Democrats and even some senior Senate Republican aides think a handful of Republicans will vote for legislation, which could pass the Senate by Memorial Day. Republicans have faced challenges in trying to present a unified position on the bill, given the dicey political prospect of appearing to side with big Wall Street banks.
Following the enactment of the health-care revamp, some Republicans have said the party should have sought to negotiate, instead of offering blanket opposition, to win concessions. Others nonetheless say Democrats made a mistake in forcing through the health bill, and that the backlash against it will ultimately help the GOP in the November elections.
"If they want to drive these bills to the far left, the ideological left, then there will be less cooperation and more confrontation," said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.). "If they come to the middle on some of this stuff, then I think there is obviously room for cooperation."