WASHINGTON Oct 3 With Washington paralyzed by a
government shutdown, time is running out for President Barack
Obama to decide whether to leave the stalemate behind and fly
halfway around the world to attend two international summits in
Indonesia and Brunei.
On Thursday, the White House was still officially hoping the
shutdown would end quickly, allowing Obama to avoid having to
choose between looking after things at home, or advancing his
trade and foreign policy goals in Asia on a trip beginning on
If the House of Representatives approves a stopgap funding
plan already passed by the Senate - something that did not
appear imminent - that would make Obama's travel plans a lot
less complicated, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"Obviously, that would affect the way we determine
presidential travel," Carney told reporters, explaining Asia was
important to Obama's economic and strategic goals.
Carney declined to say whether Obama would rule out the trip
if the government remained shut down.
"I'm not going to speculate about, you know, what would
happen if, because there is still time for that question to be
moot," he said.
Earlier this week, Obama canceled visits to Malaysia and
Philippines, two of the four stops on his four-nation Asia trip,
because of the shutdown.
As of Thursday, Obama was still scheduled to depart on
Saturday for Bali, where he is slated to meet with leaders of
Asian economies negotiating a trade deal, and later travel to
Brunei, where summit participants will talk about security
issues like disputed territories in the oil- and gas-rich South
The decision is similar to one faced by former President
Bill Clinton during the last government shutdown in 1995.
Clinton opted to skip an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
meeting in Japan.
Obama could still attend the meetings, but he may feel
pressure to stay closer to home given the shutdown and a looming
Oct. 17 deadline to raise the country's debt ceiling, said
Elaine Kamarck, director of the Center for Effective Public
Management at Brookings Institution.
"The consequences of failing to end the shutdown or avert a
default are likely to be much bigger than the consequences of
not making these trips," Kamarck said.
In Indonesia, Obama was scheduled to attend the APEC
leaders' meeting - a milestone in the negotiations on the
Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Obama wants to
finalize by the end of the year.
If he does not attend the summit, Obama would also miss a
potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to
discuss the Syria crisis.
In Brunei, Obama would miss the East Asia Summit, and
discussions about a maritime code of conduct for disputed
territories in the oil and gas-rich South China Sea.
Southeast Asian allies involved in the dispute had hoped
that Obama's participation could provide "geopolitical ballast"
to convince China to abide by the new code, Ernest Bower, chair
for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, told reporters earlier this week.
"If he decides indeed that he has to cancel this weekend, it
would leave a big geopolitical mark," said Bower.