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Obama invites Republican budget hawk Ryan to lunch

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

President Barack Obama will take his charm offensive with Republicans up a notch on Thursday, having lunch with budget hawk and former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan at the White House.

Hours after supping with a dozen Republican senators to start a dialogue aimed at reviving a stalled "grand bargain" on the deficit and spending, the president will welcome Ryan, a key player in the House of Representatives.

Chris Van Hollen, Ryan's Democratic opposite number on the House Budget Committee, will also join the lunch, a White House official said, as Obama's fresh strategy of reaching out to Republicans gathered pace.

Ryan, who was vice presidential nominee for Obama's defeated Republican rival Mitt Romney in November, is regarded as the intellectual engine of fiscal conservatism in the House and writes Republican Party budget policy.

Obama is making a new attempt to find common ground with Republican foes on Capitol Hill following a string of ugly tax and spending confrontations driven by sharply clashing ideologies between him and his political foes.

His new strategy is unfolding days after the latest impasse between the White House and Capitol Hill resulted in the imposition of an $85 billion austerity drive which threatens US growth and could hike unemployment.

White House officials believe there is a small window to test whether a deal to rein in the US budget deficit may be possible in Obama's second term.

On Wednesday night, Obama treated a dozen senior Republicans to dinner at the Jefferson Hotel, a few blocks north of the White House, in an unusual moment of comity in a US capital paralyzed by partisanship.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, often a vocal Obama critic, helped organize the dinner which also included luminaries John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Bob Corker and Tom Coburn.

Graham said the dinner was "productive and substantive" and expressed hope it will mark a "new, long-overdue paradigm where people in elected office actually begin talking to each other about meaningful issues."

"I shared with my colleagues there is no dishonor in trying and failing to solve big problems.

"I'm ready to try to solve the serious, long-term budget problems our country faces and can accept failure as an outcome. But I cannot accept not trying."

Next week, Obama, a Democrat, will take his case directly to Capitol Hill and will speak to Republicans from the Senate minority and the majority in the House of Representatives.

col/dw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130307/obama-invites-republican-budget-hawk-ryan-lunch