Obama Postponing Trip To Stay For Health Care Vote

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March 18, 2010 8:59 a.m.
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President Obama will not go on his already delayed trip to Indonesia, Australia and Guam this weekend, preferring to stay in Washington to see health care through, the White House said today.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that Obama will postpone the trip until June and that he phoned the leaders of those nations to express his regret but to say that the health care vote was too important to be out of town.

“The president is determined to see this battle through,” Gibbs said during the first ever press briefing held in the White House Rose Garden.Gibbs cited the timing of the legislative process, and that the final health care bill is being posted online today, starting a 72-hour clock for public comment. That sets the vote at mid-day Sunday at the earliest, and the president had been set to leave Sunday early evening.

Obama has been having face-to-face discussions with individual wavering House Democrats to help leadership secure 216 votes needed to pass the plan. The White House and Democratic leadership haven’t said when the Senate would be expected to vote on the legislation to send it to Obama’s desk for a signature.

“This has been a long hard process,” Gibbs said. “The president believes that the House leadership wanting to talk to the full caucus and get a CBO score was the right thing to do.”

Last Friday the White House announced the trip would be delayed for the health care vote.

Reporters asked Gibbs why not just push the trip another day or so. The press secretary said the schedulers had already “pulled out what very little padding remained” and they determined it would not be fair for Obama to potentially have to cancel or delay a planned speech to the Australian parliament, among other events.

Gibbs said Australian and Indonesian leaders told administration aides they understand what Obama has been working toward with health care.

“It seemed obvious to us that the best course of business was to reschedule. We want to get this done,” Gibbs said.

Follow every development on health care at our Countdown to Reform wire.

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