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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama shortens Asia trip amid government shutdown

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President Obama is shortening his upcoming trip to Asia because of the government shutdown, the White House announced on Wednesday.

Obama is still slated to leave on Saturday night to attend a pair of economic summits, but plans to skip stops in Malaysia and the Philippines.

The White House said Obama informed their leaders in phone calls that he would not be able to visit those two countries.

“Due to the government shut-down, President Obama’s travel to Malaysia and the Philippines has been postponed,” said National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden. “Logistically, it was not possible to go ahead with these trips in the face of a government shut-down. Because they are on the back end of the President’s upcoming trip, our personnel was not yet in place and we were not able to go forward with planning.”

Hayden said that Obama looked forward to reschedule visits to those countries later in his term.

“The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government,” she added. “This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to promote U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership in the largest emerging region in the world. A faction of House Republicans are doing whatever they can to deny America from carrying out our exceptional role in the world.”

The decision to alter Obama’s travel plans comes as Washington enters day two of a federal shutdown, after lawmakers were unable to pass a funding bill before an Oct. 1 deadline.

House Republicans sought to defund or delay Obamacare in their continuing resolutions, measures which were rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and opposed by the president.

The White House last week had said that Obama’s trip would go on as planned even as Congress scrambled to reach a spending deal.

As late as Tuesday, spokesman Josh Earnest said there were no changes to Obama’s schedule “at this point.”

The Asia trip presented the president with a difficult decision. Traveling to Asia on an expensive, high-profile tour while many federal employees are furloughed and key public services suspended because of the shutdown would likely have brought more criticism from Republicans, who already charge Obama with not negotiating in good faith to end the standoff.

White House press secretary Jay Carney last week defended the trip, saying that one of Obama's jobs was to help bolster the U.S. economy and build trade ties.

This story was posted at 7:12 a.m. and has been updated.

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