Reporting from Honolulu — With the Democratic-controlled Congress still scrambling to push through several legislative priorities before Republicans assume greater power in January, President Obama's plans for an extended getaway to Hawaii are on hold for at least a few more days, the White House said Friday.
"If I had to guess, I would say Wednesday," press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday morning when asked about the timing of Obama's departure.
But that's not stopping the rest of his family from leaving chilly Washington for the sun-drenched beaches of Oahu on schedule. The first lady, the first daughters and even Bo, the first dog, are set to arrive in Hawaii on Saturday, as the president himself had initially planned to.
Obama has pledged to remain at the White House for as long as Congress remains in session. It's the second year he's had to delay his annual visit to his home state for the holiday season. In 2009, he did not leave until Christmas Eve as lawmakers voted on his healthcare reform plan.
Gibbs said the president will continue to work the phones until he leaves, urging lawmakers to act on the New START treaty, a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, and the DREAM Act, a bill to legalize some undocumented immigrants who were raised in the United States.
The Senate will take up both the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal and the DREAM Act this weekend. Earlier efforts to pass both fell short. The Senate then would likely hold a final vote on the New START treaty Tuesday or Wednesday.
A spokesman for the first lady said she would have no public appearances after she and her daughters arrive. The president will also likely maintain a low profile once he joins them, though his trips to the golf course, beaches or for shave ice will include the traveling press pool here to document his activities.
Obama has traveled to the islands for years to visit family and friends, but only once as president. He came twice as a candidate in 2008 — first for a break before the Democratic National Convention, and later to visit his ailing grandmother, who helped raise him here. He returned as president-elect that winter.
Since taking office, Obama has made nine vacation trips totaling all or part of 49 days, according to CBS Radio's Mark Knoller, the unofficial statistician of the White House press corps. That includes summer trips to Martha's Vineyard and last year's Hawaii trip.
By comparison, George W. Bush had spent all or part of 130 days on vacation through the same point in his presidency, most at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Obama has also made 15 trips to the presidential retreat at Camp David, compared to 48 by Bush.
Hawaii is again awaiting his visit, though perhaps not with as much enthusiasm as last year. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday that Obama-related memorabilia is harder to find, and what remains on store shelves has been marked down in price. An Obama license plate at one store could be had for just $4.99.