Less Talking, More Listening

Stories by Jonathan Weisman and Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sen. Johnny Isakson sat at a dinner in the Capitol last week, hearing a pep talk aimed at Republican senators who are weighing whether to stay the course in Iraq. But his thoughts were already on his plans for the coming weeks when the Republican returns home to Georgia for Congress's August break. He will be visiting Augusta, near Fort Gordon, and Columbus, home to Fort Benning, and he will be listening to "the parents of the kids who are fighting. Their views are paramount."

Rep. Dan Boren, who is considering supporting a proposal to change the mission for U.S. troops in Iraq away from combat to counterterrorism, agreed with White House pleas last week to at least wait until a progress report on the war due in September before deciding what to do. The Democrat returns home to Oklahoma after weeks of debate over Iraq and said that what he hears in the days ahead will matter more. "My constituents are far more important than what's going on inside the Beltway," he said.

With Congress beginning its summer recess, supporters of the war are expecting attacks and protests from war opponents, and many lawmakers are looking for bipartisan consensus on a new war strategy that has so far eluded them. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican who was among the first in her party to break with the White House over Iraq, plans to do as much explaining of her decision as listening when she travels home to Maine. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a liberal Democrat from Illinois, already knows where her district stands: firmly against the war. She will be making her first trip to Iraq over the break, and plans to question U.S. military leaders there about how much longer troops must stay.

The Washington Post is following these four lawmakers as they ready themselves for what will be a contentious debate over the war when Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day. As Schakowsky prepared for her trip, she declared: "Serious change is in the air."

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