President Obama and his family are heading to Martha’s Vineyard tomorrow for a week of rest and relaxation, but not before facing the ritual grumblings that presidential vacations are extravagant and waste taxpayer money.
While Congress is in the midst of its own five-week break, Republican officials haven’t missed the opportunity to question the president for heading to the upscale Massachusetts community at a time when automatic cuts to the federal budget have left the Defense Department and other agencies furloughing employees.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said no one begrudges the president taking some time with his family. But Stewart, who earlier this year introduced a resolution calling on Obama to skip vacations until the White House restored public tours – mothballed as a result of across-the-board federal cuts known as sequestration- suggested the president’s trip to the upscale community in Chilmark, Mass., appears “tone deaf.”
“Most of the people in my district could never afford to visit Martha’s Vineyard, and those who could would feel uncomfortable vacationing in a place that has a reputation for being for the elite,” said Stewart in a telephone interview from his district.
Obama is scheduled to arrive on Saturday after he and first lady Michelle Obama travel to Orlando, where he will address the Disabled American Veterans National Convention. While on the Vineyard this year, the Obamas will be staying at the $7.6 million vacation home of David Schulte, a Democratic campaign donor and corporate finance manager.
Diana Waterman, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, listed personal trips that the president and his family have taken to Hawaii, New York and Europe since the start of his presidency that were partially paid by taxpayers. With unemployment still at 7.4%, Waterman said going to the Vineyard seems exorbitant and suggested that Obama instead take his time off at the presidential retreat at Camp David.
“When there are so many people out there looking for jobs and Americans are struggling to make ends meet, this sends the wrong message to people who are struggling to survive,” Waterman said.
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