WASHINGTON - President Bush will meet with the Democratic leaders of Congress today to discuss what to do about Iraq in the wake of his veto yesterday of the Democrats' war-funding bill because it contained a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops.

A bipartisan consensus appeared to be growing on Capitol Hill that any new bill to support U.S. troops in Iraq must contain benchmarks for political pro-gress by the Iraqi government - with consequences if the Iraqis fail to meet them. But it remained unclear what benchmarks or consequences that Republican lawmakers or the White House would accept, or whether congressional Republicans would continue to stand with Bush.

As he repeatedly had threatened, Bush vetoed the $124 billion war-spending bill yesterday because of its timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

"It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing," Bush said at the White House. That "would be setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible."

Aware that they lack a two-thirds majority to override the veto, congressional Democrats are searching for terms that could pick up enough Republican support to prevail while appealing to anti-war Democrats. *

-McClatchy Newspapers