As Recess Nears, Disputes Linger

By Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman
Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), whose frustration with the war has been growing even as he has bucked his leadership's efforts to end it, last week joined his friend and fellow conservative Democrat in the Senate, Ben Nelson (Neb.), to support legislation in the House that would mandate a change of mission in Iraq, without setting firm withdrawal dates for troops.

Moderate Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) may not have made headway in her push to begin bringing troops home, but a bipartisan breakfast meeting Tuesday with senators fed up with recrimination and deadlock over the war gave her hope that the Senate may yet find a way out of its own quagmire.

But even as the center began to strengthen, the partisans braced for a fight. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a liberal leader of the Out of Iraq Caucus, watched warily as antiwar standard bearer Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) talked about proposing a softer withdrawal strategy that would mandate that some troops come home this year but drop demands for a final date to pull out all combat forces.

And conservative Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) took heart in President Bush's combative speech Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., chastising his opponents for giving up the fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Bush, he said, was finally hitting back, with the most potent weapon in his arsenal. "The president's trying to reinforce the fact that, hey, it is the war on terror," Isakson said.

The Washington Post is following these four lawmakers as they wrestle with what to do about the war in the coming months. Congress's August recess begins in a week, but the fighting is sure to continue until the airplanes leave town.

"What we don't want is the same old fight," Boren said. "People are ready for bipartisan action where we can all come together, but that's yet to be seen. I hope that happens, but from what I've seen in the last few months, I'm not that optimistic."

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