By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Rep. Dan Boren was leaving his office in the House's Cannon Building on Wednesday morning when he ran into a familiar face, Martin MacGuinness, the White House liaison officer tasked with keeping the young Democrat on President Bush's side in the debate over the Iraq war.
Boren had just received the text of a troop-withdrawal bill that would hit the House floor for a vote the next day, one that would mandate that troops start coming home within 120 days. MacGuinness was already trolling the halls.
"He was just simply getting a vote count," the Oklahoma Democrat said. "I just told him where I was." Boren was sticking with his promise to Bush: He would wait until September for a report on the progress in Iraq before deciding whether to continue backing the administration.
The events of the week had rattled him, though. Bush was appealing for more time, even beyond September. Republican cracks were widening, and the House Democratic leadership was driving ever harder. Neither side was playing by the rules laid out in May.
"We're moving the goal posts," Boren said with low-key Oklahoma exasperation. "The administration, frankly, has moved the goal posts forward past September, and I disagree with that. But the members of Congress who are wanting to have this vote in July are really moving the goal posts, as well."
The House approved the troop-withdrawal legislation Thursday. It is the beginning of real change on Capitol Hill.
In the coming weeks, Boren predicted, "you're going to see votes change. I think it's going to show we're much closer to an end here in the House and the Senate. There won't be enough votes [for a] veto-proof margin, but now in September, I mean the bottom can fall. And that's why I would say to the president and executive branch, let this be a warning that they have to come up with . . . a plan to start bringing troops out of Baghdad.
"I think we need a healing point at some time," Boren said. He said it's time for Bush to move, before Congress moves for him. "And this is really the last opportunity for the president to do that."