Obama postpones overseas trip again

Obama postpones overseas trip again

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs made the announcement Thursday at the White House.

“Very clearly the president wants to get this done,” Gibbs said. “I think any member who's spoken to him wouldn't doubt his strong desire to see this through."

Obama has been under pressure from Democrats to delay his trip because of the healthcare debate. The House could vote on a legislative package on Sunday, setting up final action in the Senate.

Obama has been furiously lobbying undecided lawmakers on the issue, but Democrats still appear to be short the 216 votes they need to clear their package through the House. Democrats have been wary of having their president out of the country during any of the critical last hours of the healthcare debate.

Gibbs said the White House focus "was most immediately on the vote in the House," but added that it obviously helped to have Obama in Washington for the Senate proceedings.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested Obama's decision was more about wanting to remain in Washington for the Senate than needing to pull the House across the finish line on Sunday.

"This is historical," Pelosi said.  I'm sure he wants to be here for the history."

Gibbs said the White House scheduling office worked throughout the night Wednesday looking at different options for delaying the trip.

But Gibbs said it became obvious to administration officials that postponing the trip was the only option given the healthcare debate.

Obama had previously delayed the planned trip to Indonesia, Australia and Guam by three days. He initially was to leave on Thursday, but delayed the trip to Sunday.

Earlier on Thursday morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he did not think Obama's physical presence was needed to help Democrats lock down the last of their undecided members.

He also said he didn't think Obama needed to stay in Washington to sign the reconciliation bill -- a procedural step that has to occur before the Senate can consider that legislation.

"I think the president's presence helps," Hoyer said.  "But needed?  I think the president's been talking to people, he's been working.  And the miracle of communication today is that you can dial your cell phone anywhere in the world."

"They'll get the bill to him within 12 hours," Hoyer said.  "He'll sign it anywhere he wants."

The decision came as Obama and Democrats in Congress touted a score of the healthcare package by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

CBO told lawmakers that the health package would cost $940 billion over the next decade, reducing the deficit by $130 billion. It will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the second decade of the plan's implementation, according to those who have seen the score.

That’s a larger deficit reduction than the healthcare measures passed by both the House and the Senate last year, though the CBO said the current bill would spend more than those bills.

“That makes this the most significant effort to reduce the deficit since the balanced budget act of the 1990s,” Obama said in Thursday morning comments, before the announcement of the delayed trip.

House leaders are planning for a Sunday vote on the legislation, though that timeframe was originally put in place partly to accommodate Obama, who was to have left the country on Sunday.

This story was updated at 1:29 p.m.