Charles Black, a Bush campaign adviser, defended the decision to impose the deadline as a step that succeeded in serving as a reminder that the President "had a plan." He said that it would now allow the White House to put the ball "back in Congress' court."
But the view most often expressed in private on Capitol Hill and within the Bush camp was that the tactic had sown little but division.
By imposing the deadline, a House Democratic strategist contended, Bush created the conditions that heightened public attention and then was unable to get his own plan through Congress.
"We're not looking so impo'tant right now," one Bush aide agreed, cultivating a deliberate accent. "It's more like impotent."
The existence of the deadline also strained efforts of the House and Senate to hew to their individual legislative agendas, forcing both houses to revamp their earlier schedules and to spend substantial time considering the tax legislation.
Particularly hard-hit was the House, the leadership of which also had to contend with the fast-spreading scandal involving the House bank. "People around here went to a great deal of trouble to get this (tax) bill through," one House official said.
House strategists said Thursday that the House will begin work next week on major legislation that has been set aside during the tax battle, from a major education bill to health insurance and jobs legislation. But they conceded that the rush to complete the tax bill had been a significant strain on the institution.