POLITICS: PennAve

White House: Obama's Asia trip still on despite shutdown

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Russia,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,State Department,Government Shutdown,Asia

UPDATE Oct. 3, 2:06 p.m.: White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday said President Obama is evaluating whether to leave for a truncated trip to Asia this weekend on a “regularly and daily” basis and would keep reporters posted as “more information becomes available.”

Carney said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, could determine at any moment to hold a vote on a clean spending bill that would re-open the government, and Obama's decision to travel overseas would likely hinge on whether the government remains closed this weekend.

This story was first posted on Oct. 2 at 10:58 a.m. and has been updated.

 

The White House said Tuesday that President Obama is still planning to leave for a week-long trip to Asia beginning Sunday, even with the government in full shutdown mode.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said there are no changes to announce to the president’s schedule “at this point.”

“We'll keep you updated,” he said.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions about whether the president could travel during the shutdown if travel staff were furloughed to the Office of Management and Budget.

He also said the White House hopes Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill can pass a spending bill before Obama is scheduled to depart on Sunday.

“We certainly hope that in the time between now and the president's scheduled departure, that the speaker does the right thing, puts on the floor of the House a bill that will overwhelmingly pass, according to Republican congressmen, a clean CR and reopen the government,” Carney said.

The president is slated to spend next week visiting Indonesia — where he lived for three years — Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines on a trip that includes two economic summits where he will promote U.S. trade ties to the region.

But with Democrats and Republicans deadlocked on a funding bill and little sign of a quick resolution, the president faces a difficult decision sticking to his travel plans.

Last week, the White House said Obama planned to take the trip regardless of whether Congress reached a deal to avert the shutdown.

“Our schedule remains as planned,” Carney told reporters Thursday.

Carney defended the trip in response to suggestions that the expensive overseas tour could hurt the president with many government workers furloughed and some public services shuttered.

Carney, though, said that one of the president’s jobs it to bolster U.S. trade into emerging markets.

“That's one of his responsibilities,” Carney said. “He's going to fulfill it.”

But keeping his plans could leave Obama open to charges from Republicans that he is embarking on an expensive far-flung trip instead of working to end the shutdown.

Obama is already the second-most traveled president in history, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. He is currently trailing only former President George H.W. Bush in time spent overseas.

The cost of the flights alone will cost millions at a time when some parts of the government will be temporarily out of funds. The cost per hour of operating Air Force One is $179,750, but that's only a tiny fraction of the total for any presidential trip, which includes back-up aircraft, aerial tankers, motor transport, security and diplomatic personnel, accommodations and advance teams.

In 2013, Obama has made five international trips so far — to the Middle East, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Africa and St. Petersburg, Russia.

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