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.
But it was the new Democratic majority's inability to work across the aisle that ultimately ensured failure.
Like the Republicans they had replaced, senior Democrats chose confrontation over cooperation.
They squandered opportunities to work with Republicans unhappy with the president.
And, under pressure from their antiwar base, they tried to bully their rivals.
"Even now, I fail to understand how we think we can stop the war unless we bring in Republicans," said Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie, one of the liberal Democrats who challenged his party's strategy.
Democrats -- and even many Republicans -- had expected a far different result.
When GOP senators sat down for a tense luncheon in the Capitol's wood-paneled Mansfield Room last January, their party was in turmoil.
President Bush's decision to send additional troops to Iraq, combined with the party's election losses, infuriated many lawmakers. As Vice President Dick Cheney sat silently, a heated debate erupted.
Virginia Sen. John W. Warner, a white-haired veteran of two wars, rose to express deep concern that the U.S. military was caught in a civil war in Iraq. On the other side, Arizona's John McCain and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham passionately warned that retreat would spell disaster.
"It was a very difficult time," recalled Graham, who struggled that afternoon to prevent a full-scale revolt. "Republicans wanted to drop Iraq like a hot potato."