President Obama’s decision to send Michelle and his daughters to Hawaii ahead of him if he is delayed by a fight with Congress could cost taxpayers tens of thousands of extra dollars to fund two separate vacation flights and related costs. The move would also violate the intent of an executive order he issued just last month urging federal employees to cut back on expenses like travel.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that Obama told Senate Democratic leaders during a White House meeting that he would delay his scheduled December 17 departure for Hawaii to keep Congress in town until it extends the payroll tax holiday. Said Reid:
I’ll paraphrase it, but I’m pretty close. He said, ‘Michelle and the girls are going to have a great time in Hawaii. They don’t need me there.’
But sending his family ahead of him could easily cost taxpayers an added $100,000, and possibly much more.
Last year, when Obama was delayed by Congress, Michelle left early for Hawaii, and the cost of her separate flight alone totaled about $63,000. This did not include related security and staff costs or the money for a cargo plane that may trail the first lady’s jet on such a trip.
Obama joined Michelle a few days after she landed in Hawaii, and they extended their vacation past their scheduled return date to make up for the president’s lost vacation time.
Sending Michelle to Hawaii ahead of him this year would provide the first lady a convenience that Obama himself is trying to deny government workers.
In an executive order issued Nov. 9 titled “promoting efficient spending,” which was touted by the White House as a sign of Obama’s commitment to cut the deficit, Obama instructed agencies to try to avoid unnecessary plane trips.
. . . to ensure efficient travel spending, agencies are encouraged to devise strategic alternatives to Government travel, including local or technological alternatives, such as teleconferencing and video conferencing. Agencies should make all appropriate efforts to conduct business and host or sponsor conferences in space controlled by the Federal Government, wherever practicable and cost effective.
Perhaps a nice “strategic alternative” for the first lady would be to cool her heels at the lovely Camp David, just a short chopper ride from the White House.