With financial negotiations all but halted, President Obama was headed out of Washington on Friday evening for his annual winter vacation in Hawaii.
Obama is likely to have a short trip this year; aides said he is scheduled to return Wednesday, a day after Christmas, to resume discussions with congressional leaders on how to avert the fiscal cliff.
“Merry Christmas – because we didn’t get this done, I’ll see you next week,” Obama said after telling reporters he still had hope of striking a deal to prevent taxes from rising on the middle class next year.
Obama and his family are scheduled to rent a resort on Kailua, on the island of Oahu, as they have done each year of his presidency. Though Secret Service personnel had alerted residents that the Obamas could be on the island until Jan. 6, the president has had his vacations cut short each year — over health-care reform in 2009, the extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts in 2010 and the extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance in 2011.
Last winter, as first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, jetted off, the president remained in the White House for six days, with only Bo the Portuguese water dog to keep him company, as he and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) negotiated an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.
Obama usually spends his vacation playing golf, eating at local restaurants with family members and escorting his daughters to island water parks and other activities.
Some congressional leaders are also scheduled to be in Hawaii to attend a funeral for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who died this week.
If Obama and Congress do not reach an agreement, a mix of rising taxes and mandatory spending cuts are set to kick in next year. Some economists believe the so-called "fiscal cliff" could send the nation back toward recession.
During his remarks at the White House on Friday, Obama recommended that lawmakers enjoy some eggnog and Christmas cookies before getting back to business next week.