Updated: 4:42 p.m.
President Barack Obama is postponing his trip to Asia until June to stay in Washington and help pass health care reform, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
Obama “greatly regrets the delay” but feels it is necessary to keep talking to House Members about the need to push health care reform over the finish line in a vote now lining up for Sunday, Gibbs said.
House Democratic leaders were pleased with the news, which traveled fast to the Hill. “I’m glad. I like having him here,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters.
The president already pushed back his trip by three days to try to accommodate a House vote. He was originally scheduled to leave for Indonesia and Australia on Thursday, but he delayed the trip until Sunday. The House is on track to hold its final health care vote that day.
Gibbs said Obama didn’t decide to cancel his trip to be in Washington next week when the Senate is set to take on the issue, although, he added, “Obviously that helps.”
The president has been ramping up his role in health care negotiations in recent weeks. Over the past several days, Obama has called and met with more than two dozen Members in an effort to persuade them to vote for the final health care package. Obama’s message to lawmakers has been that doing nothing is worse than doing something, Gibbs said. He cited in particular the need to address rapid insurance rate increases, and to ensure coverage for children with pre-existing conditions.
Gibbs said he didn’t know of any plan by Obama to go the Hill this weekend.