'Fiscal cliff' standoff over, Obama back in Hawaii
HONOLULU (AP) -- A week after rushing to Washington to help end a tense, end-of-year standoff with Congress, President Barack Obama is back in Hawaii for vacation.
The president's annual visit to the state where he was born and spent much of his childhood was interrupted as he and members of Congress contended with the unfinished business of the "fiscal cliff" crisis that threatened to throw the economy back into recession.
The Republican-controlled House gave final legislative approval Tuesday night to a package that avoids income tax increases for most Americans and delays for two months billions in across-the-board spending cuts. Minutes later, Obama appeared in the White House briefing room to praise the deal in an eight-minute speech.
"And I hope that everybody now gets at least a day off, I guess, or a few days off, so that people can refresh themselves, because we're going to have a lot of work to do in 2013," he said.
A short time later, Obama was aboard the presidential helicopter, bound for a Maryland Air Force Base. Barely 30 minutes after he had finished his remarks he was in the sky on Air Force One, bound for Hawaii.
The president arrived in Honolulu before 5 a.m. local time and immediately rejoined his family in their rented beachside vacation home in Kailua, a picturesque Honolulu suburb on the east side of Oahu. Kailua Beach is a popular place for wind sports and paddle surfing.
Obama and his family had spent several days, including Christmas Day, at the secluded compound before he returned to Washington on Dec. 26 for the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Obama signed the bill Wednesday evening with an autopen, a mechanical device that copies his signature. He also signed a bill authorizing fiscal year 2013 expenditures for the Defense Department.
Obama has spent much of his time in Hawaii golfing at a Marine Corps base in nearby Kaneohe, where he also has gone for near-daily workouts, including one shortly after his arrival on Wednesday.
Having finished a year marked by a grueling campaign for a second term, Obama has much work ahead of him in the new year.
The fiscal cliff deal delays by two months billions in scheduled in spending cuts. It also sets up battles between Democrats and Republicans over federal spending and debt.
The first showdowns will come over the next three months, when the government's legal ability to borrow money expires and temporary financing for federal agency budgets will lapse. Republicans have already said, as they did in 2011, that they will demand spending cuts as a condition for extending the debt ceiling.
Obama also faces decisions over Cabinet appointments, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expected to leave.
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HONOLULU (AP) -- President Barack Obama has signed a bill that boosts taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while preserving tax cuts for most American households.
The bill, which averts a looming fiscal cliff that had threatened to plunge the nation back into recession, also extends expiring jobless benefits, prevents cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and delays for two months billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts in defense and domestic programs.
The GOP-run House approved the measure by a 257-167 vote late Tuesday, nearly 24 hours after the Democratic-led Senate passed it 89-8.
Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, signed the bill using an autopen, a mechanical device that copies his signature.
Final approval came in the House on New Year's Night. The vote was 257 to 167.
The Senate passed the bill less than 24 hours earlier.
The measure raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for Obama.
It also extends expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and cancels a $900 pay increase due to lawmakers in March.
Another provision is designed to prevent a spike in milk prices.