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Obama may have to put Hawaii vacation on ice for a few days

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 6:35 PM

Will Congress keep the president from starting his vacation on time?

President Obama had planned to head off this weekend with his family to Hawaii for their annual Christmas break at a rented vacation home near where the president grew up. But with Congress still working on a tax cut agreement that has critics in both parties, and a number of other issues still to be resolved, White House officials say the president may have to endure the Washington cold for a few more days.

"I think the president is hopeful to spend a little time with family and friends in Hawaii, but if Congress is here, the president will be here," press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Monday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters, he added: "I think you've got a few extra days to pull together those Christmas presents that you put off buying. I think obviously there's a decent amount still left that getting out of here Friday or Saturday is probably not the day I'd pick in the pool."

Congress was supposed to finish its lame duck session by this Friday, but it's unclear if it will meet that deadline.

There is an obvious reason for Obama to be here: He must sign into law any legislation passed by Congress. In theory, of course, he could do that in Kailua, the city near Honolulu where he usually stays on his vacations. Obama signed last year's stimulus into law in Denver.

A more political reason is that Obama has declared the bills Congress is considering - such as the ones that would repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the tax agreement and a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia known as New START - as major priorities for his administration. It would undercut that message if he were in shorts playing golf as Congress debated any of those issues.

For example, liberal groups have spent much of the year saying Obama is not sufficiently committed to repealing the policy that bars people who are openly gay from serving in the military, a criticism that Obama has chafed at.

Obama delayed his vacation last year as the Senate considered the landmark health-care overhaul, even though that version of bill still had to be passed in House before it became law. He'll likely be watching a lot of C-SPAN again this year on a few days he could just as easily be on the beach.

Obama's day ahead

The president is scheduled to meet with top advisers about his policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The administration is supposed to announce the results of a months-long review of policy in that region on Thursday.

For Fisher, no roughing the president

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher played hoops with Obama in August, and he says he feels bad for Rey Decerega, the man who elbowed the president in a post-Thanksgiving pick-up game.

"Regardless of what he does in his life, he will be known as the guy who elbowed the president," said Fisher, who was in town Monday as Obama honored the Lakers for winning the 2009-10 NBA championship. "And obviously it wasn't intentional."

Still, Fisher said he was aware when he played with the president to avoid "roughing him up."

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