Obama Delays Trip to Indonesia to Work on Health Care

Thursday: U.S. President Obama addresses the Export-Import Bank's Annual Conference in Washington.  (Reuters)

Thursday: U.S. President Obama addresses the Export-Import Bank's Annual Conference in Washington. (Reuters)

President Obama has pushed back his trip to Indonesia for three days to work with beleaguered Democrats on trying to wrap up a health care overhaul. 

The president was expected to leave Thursday for the six-day tour that included Guam and Australia. He has pushed it back until next Sunday.

The White House made the announcement on Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' 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," Gibbs tweeted.

On Thursday, Gibbs hinted that the president wasn't planning on delaying his travel to negotiate the sticking points among House Democrats in accepting the Senate health insurance reform bill.

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"If we have any changes in the schedule, we'll certainly let you know, but the president believes it is an extremely important trip with -- it's an important region of the world and these are important partners," he said.

Gibbs added that "if it takes a couple of days extra" to get the bill passed, the president would be fine with missing the March 18 deadline he set for lawmakers "even if he's already gone."

But senior White House staff members told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late Thursday that Obama would bow to their wishes and remain in Washington for face-to-face time with restive, fence-sitting House Democrats. 

The president had promised to the work the phones from overseas, but top Democratic aides in Congress said the leadership felt it needed Obama's personal touch in Washington to have any realistic chance of pushing his signature domestic initiative across the finish line.

"I hope the vote will be in the next 10 days," House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina said Friday as he hustled down a Capitol corridor to yet another closed-door meeting with the party rank-and-file to discuss unresolved issues of policy, procedure and timing.

Speaking to reporters, Pelosi said she was pleased Obama had put off his trip and predicted that "it won't be very long and we'll be making a real difference in the life of the American people."

Pelosi said lawmakers are "one day closer" to passing the legislation, which she called an historic achievement and said she felt "very exhilarated" by the tone of conversation among Democrats.

"We stand ready to stay as long as necessary" to finish the bill, which has been heavily debated for well over a year.

If Democrats meet this new deadline, the Democratic-controlled Senate would commence work on the "fixes" bill March 22, with a goal of moving it through the chamber on a simple-majority vote through a procedure known as reconciliation that would side-step the 60-vote filibuster.

After three days of intense meetings with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and White House health care czar Nancy-Ann DeParle, however, policy issues remain unresolved. And Democrats cannot obtain a reliable cost estimate from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office until the final "fix" legislation is drafted.

After Thursday's meeting, the White House and Democrats couldn't seem to agree on what had been accomplished.

"Made a lot of progress," Emanuel told reporters afterward. "Made a lot of decisions."

A spokesman for Reid moments later told reporters: "No decisions were made."

Fox News' Major Garrett, Chad Pergram and Trish Turner contributed to this report.