'The Next Mountains'

Moving around town in the days after the Big Sunday Night—Health-Care Night—there is a different mood in the air. Passage of the enormous and historic bill, far from exhausting President Barack Obama and the Democrats, has invigorated them. Now they want it all—the whole, sweeping Obama agenda—and they are rushing into the challenge hungrily.

Here's one small example from here on the Hill: only an hour before the start of a final, crucial "votarama" here in the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid was behind closed doors with his top committee chairmen, plotting strategy to pass a sweeping cap-and-trade energy and environment plan—arguably a heavier "lift" even than health care itself.

As Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said the other day, now its time to focus on "the next mountains." Those tall peaks include energy and the environment, a total rewrite of the banking laws, a total rewrite of the immigration laws, and a series of other economic-stimulus measures.

The next day I attended a briefing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her eagerness to press ahead on these and other measures was palpable. The House has, in fact, passed many; she will be agitating for Senate action.

All these involve (further) amplifications of the federal government's role in American life. It is becoming increasingly clear that Obama is aiming to complete the most extensive overhaul of government in decades.

That's why the tea partiers are howling and the Republicans are engaging in what amounts to a sit-down strike.

It's also why, for now, Obama's popularity and job-approval numbers are in flux. Voters, still struggling in the Great Recession, wonder how and whether all this mountain climbing will help them. They may admire the president's persistence, but, in the end, this isn't about how high he climbs, it's about how high we do.