Obama invites Ryan, Van Hollen to Thursday lunch at White House

President Obama will host House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) for lunch on Thursday, the White House confirmed to The Hill.

Obama’s lunch meeting at the White House comes after a Wednesday night dinner the president had with a dozen GOP senators, as he seeks to lay the groundwork for deficit-reduction talks.

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Obama was a harsh critic of Ryan, the GOP 2012 vice presidential nominee, during the campaign, charging that his budgets would undercut Medicare benefits for seniors and would provide tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

But the president’s meeting with Ryan could boost Washington’s chances of crafting a grand deficit deal; the Wisconsin lawmaker commands respect among the GOP rank and file and more conservative lawmakers.

Obama began his effort to reach out to Republicans over the weekend with a series of phone calls, where he discussed working toward a deal that would reform both entitlements and the tax code while finding a way to offset the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on Friday.

GOP senators who met with the president on Wednesday night said that while no new policy proposals were discussed, the meeting laid a positive foundation for further talks.

The White House is setting up meeting with House Republican and Democratic members, as well.

The lunch meeting comes as Ryan prepares to unveil his own budget proposal next Tuesday.

Ryan told reporters on Wednesday that the proposal would be similar to his last blueprint, saying it would contain no “big surprises.”

His budget last year cut $5 trillion in spending and balanced by the year 2040. But this year, Ryan has pledged to conservative House members that he will unveil a proposal that would balance the budget in 10 years, by 2023.

Ryan has received pushback from GOP centrists over reports that his plan would change Medicare benefits for recipients over the age of 55. In his past budget, he proposed allowing those 54 and younger to opt out and purchase private insurance using government vouchers. Ryan, though, has not said if he would alter his Medicare plans in the new budget.

—This story was updated at 7:46 a.m.