Obama to Delay International Trip for Final Health Reform Push

BY Lea Winerman  March 12, 2010 at 10:55 AM EST

President Obama will delay his trip to Indonesia, Australia and Guam by three days in order to focus on health care reform, according to a tweet Thursday morning from White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

“The President will delay leaving for Indonesia and Australia – will now leave Sunday – the First Lady and the girls will not be on the trip,” Gibbs wrote.

The president had planned to leave March 18, and was pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders in Congress to pass a reconciliation bill before then. But the White House backed off that timeline Wednesday as House leaders made it clear they would not be able to finish that quickly.

Next week could be the make-or-break week for health care reform, with House Democratic leaders aiming to pass the Senate bill and an accompanying reconciliation bill with fixes to the Senate bill. That would set the stage for the Senate to pass the reconciliation bill soon after.

But the Senate parliamentarian ruled this week that President Obama must sign the Senate bill into law before the Senate can take up the reconciliation bill. That put the pressure on the president to stick around past March 18, says NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Some lawmakers had expressed particular frustration that the trip had been planned to coincide with the Obama daughters’ spring break, according to the New York Times — the lawmakers felt that they were being rushed in order to accommodate a family vacation. With the shifted timetable, the rest of the Obamas will no longer accompany the president on the trip.