President Obama is warning congressional leaders that he will support keeping the Senate in Washington--and delay his own Christmas vacation--until they pass an extension of a payroll tax cut that is scheduled to lapse at year's end.
Obama had planned to vacation with his family in Honolulu from December 17 until January 2. Now he is planning to have his wife and two daughters fly to Hawaii without him and join them when Congress finishes its business. [Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]
Obama has been pushing for the payroll tax cut extension for many weeks, but Republicans have blocked the legislation, arguing that spending cuts need to be made to offset the lost revenue. The Democrats want to pay for it with higher taxes on the rich. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says he will keep the Senate in session until the tax legislation is passed, and Obama will remain in Washington to lend support. "I have a simple message for my Republican colleagues," Reid said yesterday. "We will make sure we pass this tax cut for the middle class before the end of the year. We're not going to leave town until it's completed, and I say to my Republican colleagues: We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way."
This isn't an idle threat. Obama has delayed his Christmas vacations twice in the past to ratchet up pressure on Congress and to avoid being seen as goofing off while the legislators work.
Still, the criticism of Obama for planning a fun-in-the-sun holiday this year has been intensifying, as it usually does when presidents go on holiday, regardless of party. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says Obama would be wrong to play "golf in the sun" when there is work to be done in Washington and many Americans are suffering through economic hard times. [Read: Obama Vacation Plans Draw Fire.]
Obama was raised in Hawaii and has spent the Christmas holidays there for many years.