- - Sunday, May 22, 2011

WHITE HOUSE

White House, allies get jump on GOP field

The early action was supposed to be in the competitive Republican primary. But the White House and its allies aren’t sitting on the sidelines in South Carolina.

A group backing President Obama called Priorities USA is airing a TV ad in South Carolina that jabs Mitt Romney, one of the best-known Republican contenders. The ad coincided with Mr. Romney’s visit to the state Saturday, his first since forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Mr. Obama keeps offering praise, which he knows can damage a candidate in a Republican primary, to Mr. Romney on health care issues and to Jon Huntsman Jr. for his service as the Obama administration’s ambassador to China.

Mr. Huntsman, a former Utah governor, also is considering running.

FEDERAL DEFICIT

Biden talks seen as hope for debt-ceiling deal

A deal to lift the U.S. debt limit may hinge on negotiations led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, which still have a long way to go to close the gap between deeply divided Democrats and Republicans.

Top congressional Republicans on Sunday suggested they could compromise on the two biggest issues — health care and taxes — that stand in the way of a deal to get the United States’ debt under control.

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said he would “absolutely” be willing to negotiate with Democrats on his plan to control health care costs.

Separately, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky did not rule out a tax increase — a contrast to other Republican leaders who have insisted that any deal to increase the country’s borrowing authority must consist of spending cuts alone.

Mr. Biden will gather together senior lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday afternoon for a third set of talks.

CAMPAIGNS

Gingrich says he’s debt-free, mum on Tiffany’s bill

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