Obama to Ryan: Let's do lunch

Maybe we should call this the Restaurant Stimulus. Stung after the collapse of his Nightmare on Sequester Street strategy and apparently looking to bypass John Boehner on direct negotiations, Barack Obama has asked House Budget Chair Paul Ryan out on a lunch date, coming on the heels of a dinner with other Republicans in the Senate:

President Barack Obama –seeking to sell Republicans on a revival of “grand bargain” talks — has invited 2012 GOP veep candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, over to the White House for lunch on Thursday, POLITICO has learned.

Obama, who has always regarded Ryan as one of the leading intellectual forces of the opposition, has also invited the committee’s ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The idea for the chat-and-chew came during an extended phone conversation between Obama and Ryan earlier this week.

Obama needs a deal more than ever to save some face on the sequester cuts, now that the media has finally started savaging the scare stories and “firemen first” strategies.  A deal, though, would require Boehner to come back to the White House to bypass normal order, and bypassing Boehner seems to be the strategy in asking Ryan to break bread later today:

By speaking directly with Ryan, Obama is hoping to enlist a powerful ally in convincing leadership to abandon its insistence on subjecting all future measures on the debt, deficit, taxes and entitlement reform to “regular order,” the tortuous committee process dominated by party conservatives, according to a person close to the process.

“Torturous”? [see update below] Does Glenn Thrush mean that process that, prior to 2010, managed to produce actual budgets every year despite policy disagreements between Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, and Capitol Hill and the White House?  The process that didn’t produce fiscal cliffs, sequesters, and credit-limit fights?  For a President seeking to impose his will on the legislative branch, that may seem “torturous,” but for the rest of the nation, the endless series of crises created by Democratic budget obstructionism has provided much more pain than the process that actually produced budgets for, oh, over two hundred years.

It never hurts to talk, of course.  Ryan will get the opportunity to remind Obama that his own budgetary homework is now a month overdue, although that may create a little heartburn over the crab bisque.  And hey, Obama seems to be in a rare mood to actually pay bills these days:

As part of his effort to improve relations between the White House and Capitol Hill, President Obama dined with a small group of Republican senators this evening and, according to the White House, he paid for the dinner out of his own pocket.

Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Mike Johanns, R-Neb.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Dan Coats, R-Ind., Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; are among the senators who joined the president for dinner tonight. The group dined at the Jefferson Hotel a few blocks from the White House.

“The president greatly enjoyed the dinner and had a good exchange of ideas with the senators,” a senior administration official said. …

Johanns said he felt the president was trying to “start a discussion and kind of break the ice” on how to move forward in dealing with the repeated budget battles that keep cropping up.

Moving even further away from normal order isn’t the way to do it, but at least talking across the aisle isn’t a bad first step.

On the other hand, Lindsey Graham has a point here:

I’ll have more later today on Ryan’s budgetary reform efforts.

Update: See, this is why I shouldn’t blog at 3:30 in the morning on a travel day.  Glenn wrote “tortuous,” meaning greatly complicated, not “torturous,” which means incredibly painful.  My apologies for the error — but the point still stands.  If we compare a process that successfully produced federal budgets for centuries (and under the current rules for decades) with the three years of fiscal “cliffs” and assorted dramatic nonsense, I’d argue that the latter is more tortuous and torturous, and that the former is a lot more productive and successful.