Obama Cancels Foreign Trip for Health Bill Push

CBS/Mark Knoller

AP

President Obama has canceled a planned Asia/Pacific trip in order to make a final push to get the health care reform bill passed. The trip is being rescheduled for June.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced the decision at his press briefing Thursday. The trip had originally been planned to begin today, the deadline for passage of the bill put once forth by the administration. Last week, the White House announced that the trip had been delayed until Sunday.

Gibbs said the White House still expects a House vote on Sunday, but that the decision to cancel the trip to Indonesia and Australia was made when it became apparent that the schedule would be extremely tight.

He said "very little padding" remained when schedulers looked at how the president would make both the vote and his schedule for the trip.

"Unless we took off basically extremely early in the afternoon on Sunday, it wasn't going to be possible to do," he said. "And we had a speech to the Australian parliament that you don't want to call on Sunday and say, 'hey, can we move this back a day?'"

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs held his daily briefing in the Rose Garden on Thursday.
CBS/Mark Knoller

Gibbs said Mr. Obama is "disappointed" that he will not be able to make the trip to Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. He said the president had been looking forward to "building off of what he talked about in Cairo" in terms of reaching out to the Muslim world.

CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid reports there had been "tremendous disappointment" that Mr. Obama would not be bringing his family to Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood. The first family had originally been scheduled to make the trip but that changed when the trip was delayed.

It is not yet known whether the Obama family will travel with the president in June.

Both House Democrats and the president predict that the vote will pass Sunday, though there do not yet appear to be the votes in the House for passage.

This is not the first time a president has taken this sort of action. Former President Bill Clinton scrapped his trip to the APEC Summit in Malaysia in November 1998 because of Iraq crisis, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports. Vice President Al Gore made the trip instead.

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