The Antiwar Liberal | Jan Schakowsky

(By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)

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By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 15, 2007

On Thursday morning, members of the House Democratic whip team, including Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, pored over a list of conservative Democrats who were potential opponents of an Iraq withdrawal proposal scheduled for a vote that afternoon.

One sign that the number wouldn't be high: Rep. Lincoln Davis (Tenn.), an influential "Blue Dog," announced to cheering colleagues that he would support the bill. Unlike earlier versions Davis had opposed, this one didn't involve troop funding.

As the team moved down the list, the whips quickly determined that Democratic foes amounted to a handful. And sure enough, the bill passed 223 to 210, with just 10 Democrats opposing it.

Schakowsky was a longtime opponent of the war who, after she joined the House leadership, had to juggle her fervor with the need to find compromise measures that would attract enough votes. But last week, the tide had clearly turned.

She had been amazed to hear Sen. Pete V. Domenici, a Republican from New Mexico who had been a stalwart backer of the war, challenge President Bush's strategy.

"It's just over," she thought to herself as she listened to the senator on the radio. "And the question is: How soon can we do it?"

On Monday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and her Democratic leadership team had decided that the House would renew its push that week to force a troop withdrawal. "All of us went home; we heard from our constituents; we saw a real break in the ranks of the Republicans," Schakowsky said.

She would have preferred even tougher terms. The latest House Iraq bill, which set an April 1 deadline for bringing most forces home, was unveiled at a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday afternoon. Schakowsky protested a provision allowing some troops to remain in Iraq to train local security forces, waving a report by the Center for American Progress showing that those forces had become deeply unreliable.

"Every single person would have written a slightly different bill," Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) said as he surveyed the room. "And that's true," Schakowsky added. The bill may not be perfect, "but we're moving ahead."


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