Oil spill consuming Obama's time

President Barack Obama's upcoming schedule makes clear he is almost entirely focused on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but the president is forging ahead with a full legislative agenda.

Aides to the president say Obama is able to "chew gum and walk at the same time," but the spill has clearly become the top issue at the White House as Obama will spend two days in the Gulf this week before addressing the nation on Tuesday and meeting with BP officials on Wednesday.

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White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said earlier this month that Obama still expects Congress to pass financial regulatory reform before the July 4 recess, confirm Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan before the August recess, ratify the new START arms-reduction treaty this year and act on a number of economic aid packages.

Obama has also expressed hope that Congress will act on immigration and climate change this year, but both look doubtful as the Hill and the White House focus on the oil spill and legislation dealing with it.

"The American people don’t elect somebody I think that they don’t believe can walk and chew gum at the same time," Gibbs said. "Sometimes it feels like we walk and chew gum and juggle on a unicycle all at the same time. I get that."

Obama may well be juggling these many issues at once, but messaging from the White House has been almost entirely Gulf-oriented even though aides had hoped to spend the summer focused on job creation.

"We have had a very full agenda, not just in the past 44 or 45 days, but for the past 16 months," Gibbs said. "But there’s a whole lot of people working on a whole lot of things in the White House, and we’re able to do more than several things at once."

To be sure, the White House scored a victory last week by winning sanctions on Iran, and the president continues to host world leaders like Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But other areas are being obscured by the oil spill as evidenced by the president's decision to again cancel a trip to Indonesia and Australia.

With the Gulf occupying so much of Obama's time, Vice President Joseph Biden, who traveled to Africa to watch the World Cup, could be asked to take a larger role in shepherding legislation on Capitol Hill.

One senior administration official noted that the president "has a lot of capacity, so I wouldn't assume he's not able to do other things just because of his focus on the Gulf."

But, the official said, Biden has always, at the president's request, "played key behind-the-scenes roles with Congress on our Hill agenda. That will continue."


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