Washington Nervous Senate Republicans beseeched the White House without apparent success Wednesday for a quick change in course on Iraq as congressional Democrats insisted on high-profile votes calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by spring.
Prospects for a less-sweeping, bipartisan challenge to President Bush suffered a setback when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the leading proposal has "less teeth than a toothless tiger."
Taken together, the events pointed toward a 10-day period of politically charged maneuvering in the Senate in which Democrats push for a withdrawal, the White House's allies resist and a small but growing collection of Republicans - most of them facing re-election in 2008 - is caught in the middle.
"I'm hopeful they (White House officials) change their minds," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said after a meeting that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley held with several Republicans in the Capitol.
There was no evidence of that - and the House GOP leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, was biting in his criticism of Republicans who have parted company with Bush on the war.
"Wimps," he called them in closed-door comments confirmed by an aide.
Bush, one day after ruling out talk of any shift in strategy before fall, met at the White House with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Both lawmakers emerged saying that the administration's troop buildup had produced progress and deserved a chance to work, at least until Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, produces a widely anticipated report on the war in September.
The White House owes Congress an interim report later this week on the progress that the Iraqi government has made toward meeting a series of political, military and economic goals.
One senior U.S. official said the report will judge that the Iraqi government has partially met some objectives, failed to achieve others, and completed action on a few requirements for upgrading its military.
In a downbeat assessment, the nation's top intelligence analyst told Congress during the day that the troop increase had not created conditions that would allow the country's various groups to reconcile their deep differences.
"They (the violence levels) have not yet been reduced significantly," Tom Fingar told the House Armed Services Committee.