Sharp Debate, and a Defection

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

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe could wait no longer. On Thursday, the Maine Republican publicly broke with the White House on the Iraq war, which she had long since come to oppose. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a fervent war opponent, believes that there are plenty of other Republicans prepared to jump at the next dose of bad news. "I just see the growing fear in their eyes on this," she said.

Snowe's move -- long anticipated, much agonized-over -- came during a week of intense congressional debate over the war, when President Bush issued a mixed report on military and political progress in Iraq and his advisers worried that the political pressure to change course now, rather than after a full report due this fall, would prove inexorable. But Bush voiced his opposition to what he called a "precipitous" departure as Democratic leaders promised a series of votes -- and weeks of agonized debate -- until there is a change of course.

Rep. Dan Boren, for one, is still holding out. When Democratic leaders went hunting for votes for a proposal setting a firm withdrawal date, the young Oklahoman was one of just 10 Democrats who said no. Back home, "most people are saying, you know, let's wait until September" for Gen. David H. Petraeus's report on the progress in Iraq, Boren said. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is also waiting, but time, he says, is running out for Bush's strategy, and the progress reported in last week's interim report wasn't nearly sufficient. By September, the White House better have more to offer. "Here's this 60-day warning," he said.

The Washington Post is following the four lawmakers as they wrestle with what to do about the war in Iraq in the coming months. It is, Snowe said, "the final window of opportunity."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company