The Big Mo? No.

(AP)
Job One for Democrats after they took over Congress was getting the President to change course in Iraq. The elections and the polls showed public support was behind them. They had the Big Mo going. But two months into the 110th Congress, the Big Mo has dissolved into, well, the Little Mo.

Maybe even the Stalled Mo.

Democrats thought President Bush's proposed troop surge in January would be the perfect catalyst -- the very thing that would convince Congress (including plenty of Republicans) to pass a strong, symbolic resolution saying the plan was "against the national interest."

In early January, Senator Joseph Biden (D) had drafted the Senate resolution saying it was "to try to convince the president that there are significant numbers and members in the United States Senate who think this proposal is a mistake, and, hopefully, this resolution will force him to reconsider." At the time, everyone predicted it would come to a quick vote. The House would then follow suit (with the help of a healthy number of Republicans): a slam-dunk for Democrats; a difficult blow to the President. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid precicted the vote would be "the beginning of the end of the present policy in Iraq."

Here's how it really went down.

Biden's resolution died a quick death. Republicans and some Democrats worried the language was too strong and could empower the enemy or be seen as unsupportive of the troops. It was replaced with a flurry of other resolutions and, to confuse things, some of those resolutions actually supported the President's troop surge. That wasn't part of Democrats' game plan. Dueling resolutions? Pro-Bush and anti-Bush... which stood to cancel each other out? That would hardly measure up as the strong push against the President's surge that Democrats had promised. In the end it didn't matter. None of them had enough support to even get to the debate stage in the Senate.

House Democrats sat watching plans go sour in the Senate, and decided to move ahead with their own resolution. Theirs was simple and somewhat softer than Biden's. It made no mention of the surge being against the national interest. And, concerned that it could be spun as though they don't support the troops, Democrats even included a sentence saying that House members "continue to support and protect the troops." It passed, but largely along party lines without major defections among Republicans. And with no similar action in the Senate, it hardly made the impact Democrats had hoped for.

Democrats in the House and Senate are now working behind the scenes to see what ideas on changing course in Iraq can get the support and momentum to pass. It's not proving easy. Three days into the work this week, they haven't been able to come up with the next step.

Congressman Jack Murtha (D) has said he's writing a plan that would essentially take a backdoor approach; not exactly cutting direct funding for the troops, but setting military goals that can't possibly be met . It would have the same result: it would be impossible to maintain the troop surge. For example, one Murtha idea is to say that military that tours of duty can't be extended. Without extensions, the troop surge couldn't be maintained.

A top Democrat told me that Murtha is floating his ideas to see how they play, and that other Democrats haven't decided whether to get on board yet. Even if Murtha says it's not a troop funding cut, if it walks like a troop funding cut, and it quacks like a troop funding cut ... will the American people see it as a troop funding cut?

That's pretty much where we are today. We'll know more in the coming weeks. For now, from Capitol Hill at least, the Big Mo on Iraq looks like the Status Quo Mo.
  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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