WASHINGTON -- President Obama plans to continue his campaign to win hearts, minds and stomachs on Capitol Hill.
Obama is scheduled to have lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, on Thursday.
The scheduled meal at the White House follows a bipartisan dinner Wednesday night attended by a dozen Republican senators and the president. Obama arranged the dinner -- picking up the check at the luxury Jefferson Hotel, the White House said -- as part of a very public campaign to try to build goodwill with Republicans, particularly on matters related to the deficit.
Obama has made several calls to lawmakers in recent days, expressing his interest in their help to revive budget talks in some form, or at least to move ahead with other issues central to his second-term agenda. He plans to attend a Senate Republican conference lunch next week, and a similar meeting with House Republicans is in the works, House Speaker John Boehner's office has said.
On Wednesday, senators gave high marks to the dinner with the president, describing the conversation as candid and good-natured. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D) said he sensed a "heartfelt" desire on both sides to find some common ground before the next budget showdown over the debt ceiling this summer.
"We really need to stay in this intense dialogue for the next four to five months," Hoeven said. "You really sense from people a desire to get a solution."
The meals and phone calls amount to grand gestures after years of icy and distant relations between the White House and congressional Republicans. Ryan, as his party's 2012 vice presidential nominee, was among Obama's sharpest critics and stands as the president's foremost ideological rival on deficit reduction.
Ryan's latest budget blueprint is due out within days and is expected to revive his plans to overhaul Medicare, although his plans have sparked debate among Republicans. Thawing relations between Ryan and Obama would be a remarkable turn for both politicians.
Staff writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
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