Congress and the White House are facing the choice of continued fighting or a shift toward bi-partisan bargaining in the wake of a Senate vote that killed President Barack Obama's 447 billion dollar (£287 billion) jobs plan.
They are likely to do both as they seek to produce results sought by a discontented public while also drawing bright political lines for voters as the 2012 campaign heats up.
Mr Obama's plan died at the hands of Senate Republicans despite weeks of cross-country campaigning by the president. Republicans opposed its stimulus-style spending and the tax surcharge for the very wealthy.
Now, the White House and leaders in Congress already are moving on to alternative ways to address the nation's painful 9.1 % unemployment, including breaking the legislation into smaller, more digestible pieces.