To a crescendo of clicking cameras, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped before a row of shimmering U.S. flags last March to make an announcement Americans had been waiting four months to hear.
November's elections had swept Democrats into power on a wave of frustration with the Iraq war. Now, flanked by three committee chairmen in her ceremonial Capitol office, the San Francisco congresswoman prepared to unveil the party's plan to bring the troops home.
"The American people called for a new direction," the speaker said, trying to give voice to the historic moment. "That's what this bill does."
There was just one problem. Pelosi had no answer for a simple question: Would the plan get any GOP support?
"I'm the last person to ask about Republican votes," she said curtly.
The speaker's dismissive comment drew little attention that morning. But it was telling. Today, the legislative drive against the war -- the most intense on Capitol Hill since the Vietnam era -- is all but over. As Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, a leading antiwar Democrat, bluntly put it: "We have made no progress."
The answer lies partly in the slim Democratic majority and a determined Republican president.
Read more here. (Subscription required.)