Moving closer to a showdown over funding the war in Iraq, President Bush and congressional Democratic leaders emerged from an eagerly awaited...

WASHINGTON — Moving closer to a showdown over funding the war in Iraq, President Bush and congressional Democratic leaders emerged from an eagerly awaited White House meeting Wednesday without progress toward ending an impasse over an emergency spending bill.

Despite Bush’s veto threat, Democrats continued to press ahead with legislation that would force the administration to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.

“We cannot give the president a blank check,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the meeting, which also included House and Senate Republican leaders.

Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other senior Democratic lawmakers are intensifying their efforts to unite congressional Democrats behind a single plan for bringing U.S. forces home.

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Last month, the House and Senate passed different versions of the war-funding bill. The House measure set a deadline for withdrawing virtually all U.S. combat forces no later than August 2008; the Senate legislation calls for withdrawal to begin within four months of the bill’s enactment and sets a nonbinding “goal” for completing the redeployment by March.

The Senate version generated criticism from many war opponents, who have called for Congress to act more boldly to end the war. The initial challenge is to find a compromise that can pass both chambers.

Bush, meanwhile, has pledged to veto any legislation that includes withdrawal dates, which he has said would tie the hands of commanders and signal when U.S. forces would stop fighting. Both sides agree it is unlikely either the House or Senate could muster the two-thirds majorities required to override a veto.