Barack Obama may have watched his approval ratings dip to their lowest point of his presidency as 2013 started winding down, but as he prepared to embark for his family’s annual vacation in his native Hawaii, he said that he expected the time off would leave him rejuvenated for the year to come.
“The end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what can you do better next year,” Obama told reporters at his final press conference of the year, covered by The Washington Post and other major news organizations. “That’s how I intend to approach it. I’m sure that I will have even better ideas after a couple days of sleep and sun.”
He arrived in Oahu on schedule this year, the first year that the president and his family have made it out of Washington on time. In every previous year of Obama’s presidency, congressional haggling and overtime forced him to delay the trip to the state of his birth, The Christian Science Monitor pointed out.
This year, congress passed a bipartisan budget deal in time for the Obamas to hit the sandy shores of Oahu on Saturday.
But not all of the government’s important business was complete.
Despite Obama’s earlier plea, congress did not pass an extension of federal emergency unemployment benefits, so as congress members made their way off to their own vacations and home district visits and Obama basked in the Hawaiian sun, at least 1.3 million jobless Americans were left out in the cold, wondering how to eat and pay rent, much less buy Christmas presents.
U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez told The Baltimore Sun newspaper that congress had treated those unemployed Americans to “a lump of coal in their stocking” for the holiday season. The last week unemployed workers on the federal extension may file for benefits is this week, ending December 28.
The federal program granting extended unemployment benefits was passed by congress with broad backing from both parties in 2008, when the unemployment was at 5.6 percent, a figure them considered high.
The number of unemployed is now over 7 percent.
“It would be literally unprecedented for Congress to fail to act to renew emergency unemployment,” Perez told the Sun. But that is exactly what happened.
The Obamas will stay in Hawaii for just over two weeks. They will rent a luxurious oceanside estate at a total cost of $56,000, according to The Huffington Post. The family will pay for the rental out of its own pocket, not out of taxpayer funds.