updated 5/17/2007 3:33:16 PM ET 2007-05-17T19:33:16

Senate leaders met with President Bush's chief of staff in the Capitol on Thursday in search of a compromise bill to fund the Iraq war, eager to avoid a second veto showdown.

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"We'll work through something we can all live with," the president told reporters at the White House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that was his goal, adding that Democrats would not give the White House "a blank check." Bush "has to deal with us," he said.

Bush vetoed an earlier measure, objecting to a proposed timetable for a troop withdrawal as well as several billion dollars Democrats inserted for their favored domestic programs.

House Democrats failed to override his veto, then countered with a replacement bill to finance the war in two 60-day installments. Bush vowed to veto that bill, as well.

The Senate sidetracked the House's confrontational approach, passing legislation that merely pledges to provide the troops the resources they need - an action designed to pave the way for Bolten's mid-morning visit to the Capitol for renewed talks with Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The vote was 94-1.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., cast the lone dissenting vote. He favors cutting off money to end the war.

A day earlier, Reid staged a series of test votes on the war that revealed an overwhelming majority of Republicans were willing to restrict foreign aid if Baghdad failed to meet certain benchmarks. Another vote showed a slim majority of Democrats - 28 out of 47 voting Wednesday - support cutting off money for combat in 2008.

A 'general agreement' on Iraq accountability
McConnell said between Republicans and Democrats there is "general agreement that we must hold the Iraqi government accountable to a political process that allows for reconciliation."

But "the Senate will not cut funds for troops in the field," said McConnell, R-Ky. "And we will finish this process by Memorial Day."

Negotiations on the bill are expected to continue for days.

"To be successful, we must end the finger-pointing and instead roll up our sleeves and work together. I believe that we can - and we will," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

In a separate development Thursday, the House voted 397-27 to pass legislation authorizing $646 billion in defense spending for the 2008 budget year, which begins Oct. 1. The bill includes $142 billion in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the policy bill requires reports on progress made in Iraq, it does not require troop withdrawals or place restrictions on the war.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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