WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama ramped up his search for a running mate on Monday, consulting with one congressional ally by phone and dispatching members of his vice presidential vetting team to the Capitol for meetings.

Sen. Dick Durbin said he had spoken with Obama, his fellow Illinois senator.

Jim Johnson and Eric Holder, who comprise two-thirds of the group Obama has asked to help guide his search, met separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Reps. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.

Obama's campaign announced last week that he has asked Johnson, Holder and Caroline Kennedy to help guide the search.

None of the congressional leaders involved in the meetings have figured in speculation about a possible running mate, suggesting that the day's conversations were designed to seek advice. Durbin and Emanuel are barred from being on the ticket because the Constitution requires that the presidential and vice presidential candidates be from different states.

Johnson himself became a subject of campaign controversy during the day after a weekend report in The Wall Street Journal that he had received loans from Countrywide Financial Corp. with the help of the firm's chief executive, Angelo Mozilo.

Obama's campaign suggested its surrogates call the story "overblown and irrelevant."

But Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, jumped in quickly.

"There is nothing 'overblown and irrelevant' about millions of Americans facing foreclosure and Barack Obama entrusting his most important decision as a presidential candidate to a man who has accepted millions in special loans from a subprime mortgage lender," said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the Republican presidential contender.

The selection of a running mate is a top priority for both Obama and McCain.

McCain stirred interest when he held a Memorial Day weekend barbecue at his Arizona home and invited three potential running mates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and their wives.

Obama has fielded numerous questions in recent days about perhaps offering Hillary Rodham Clinton a spot on his ticket. The former first lady suspended her own presidential campaign on Saturday and issued a strong endorsement for the man who edged her out in a marathon race for the nomination.