Obama puts off overseas trip to focus on healthcare battle

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed the decision to delay the trip from March 18 to March 21 in a message on Twitter.

Obama was set to leave March 18, and the White House hoped the House would approve the Senate's healthcare bill by that time.

But House leaders have pushed back at the deadline, criticizing Gibbs and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the process.


Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that meeting the White House deadline is highly unlikely.

House leaders have been struggling to gain the 216 votes they need from their caucus to win approval of the Senate bill, and so far do not appear to have them.

A survey by The Hill estimates that at least 25 House Democrats are firm "no" votes, or are likely to vote against the Senate bill.

That does not include a dozen Democrats who have vowed to vote no unless language on abortion in the Senate bill is changed. Those members want tougher language to prevent any federal funds from being used for abortion services.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has acknowledged it will be difficult to make any changes to that language.

Adding to the problems for House Democrats is a Thursday decision by the Senate parliamentarian.

The parliamentarian ruled that Obama must sign the Senate healthcare bill into law before Congress can approve a package of changes to that bill demanded by the House. Those changes would be considered under budget reconciliation rules in the Senate that prevent Republicans from filibustering the bill.

House liberals distrust the Senate, and are wary that after House passage of the Senate healthcare bill, the package of changes might never move through the upper chamber.

Obama's decision to delay his trip to Indonesia and Australia by three days suggests the president's involvement will be necessary to move things forward.

Here is Gibbs's confirmation of the delay on Twitter:

The President will delay leaving for Indonesia and Australia — will now leave Sunday — the First Lady and the girls will not be on the trip