Accessibility links

Breaking News

Obama Departs for Hawaii, Has Final Words for Congress

President Barack Obama signs the payroll tax cut extension in the White House Oval Office, in Washington, December 23, 2011.

President Barack Obama has departed Washington for Hawaii to join his family for a vacation he had to postpone for nearly a week because of a tense political battle with Congress over extending a tax cut.

Mr. Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, and their daughters Malia and Sasha have been in Hawaii since last weekend, while he remained in Washington struggling with Congress over extending the payroll-tax cut.

The final stage of that drama played out early Friday as first the Senate and then the House of Representatives rapidly approved a compromise to extend the tax cut for two months.

Mr. Obama signed the tax legislation, which also extends government financial support for the unemployed, into law along with a separate measure keeping the federal government operating through 2012.

Though the extension is only for 60 days, it is widely seen as a victory for Mr. Obama, who is seeking re-election in 2012, and at least a temporary defeat for opposition Republicans.

Republicans in the House of Representatives had labeled the two-month extension a gimmick, but were forced to back down on their demands for a longer extension under pressure from the public and within their party.

In remarks before departing, Mr. Obama said ending the stalemate will help millions of Americans, and help the economy, adding that debates in Washington should not be about "partisan games."

But he said Congress will have to work when it returns in January to extend the tax cut through next year, saying more work remains to boost the economy and speed up job growth.

"This continues to be a make or break moment for the middle class in this country, and we are going to have to roll up our sleeves together, Democrats and Republicans, to make sure that the economy is growing and to make sure that more jobs are created," Mr. Obama said.

This is the fourth time since his election in 2008 that President Obama and his family have spent their Christmas vacation in Hawaii, this year in Kailua on the island of Oahu.

White House officials always emphasize that there really is no such thing as a presidential vacation. Mr. Obama's advisers will keep him updated on a wide range of domestic and foreign issues.