When it comes to the Iraq War, the 72-member Congressional Progressive Caucus has generally been a source of energy in the Democratic Party, as its members have quite vocally pressured party leaders for legislation that could lead to an end to the war. But at a sparsely attended “townhall meeting” Wednesday morning at the Cannon House Office Building, venerable caucus leaders sounded a distinctly defeatist note, glumly explaining that Congress simply lacks both the votes and the spirit to undo Bush’s war.

“It is one of the worst times to ever be in the Congress of the UnitedStates,” complained California’s Maxine Waters. “We look incapable of doing what the public wants us to do.” A downbeat Waters also said that “even though members of Congress were elected on a platform to get us out of Iraq, they have prioritized getting along instead of following their heart and intellect.”

Steven Cohen, a freshmen House democrat from Tennessee who has steadfastly opposed the war, didn’t point fingers at his Democratic colleagues but nonetheless shared Water’s frustration: “I think our Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] is a good leader, but maybe the leadership would be stronger if there was hope in the Senate to get the votes.” In other words, the antiwar Democrats are stuck because of those Senate Republicans who refuse to break with George W. Bush on the war.

On the Senate side, there certainly is not much hope for change among Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would no longer try to bring troops home by spring. And it appears that an incremental strategy change being pushed by Senator Jim Webb that would give troops longer breaks between deployments is not likely to come to a vote.

During today’s meeting, the progressive caucus, chaired by Representatives Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, once again called for Congress not to approve further funding for the war without a timetable for withdrawal. But the members did not come across as fired up to make such a measure happen. Nor did they threaten to break with Pelosi if legislation of this sort was not offered by the House leadership. They remain antiwar–but they came across as unsure what to do about it.