President Barack Obama got what he wanted from his Hawaii vacation: nearly two weeks away from the spotlight. The peaceful lull ends today when he returns to Washington to face emboldened Republicans eager to challenge his spending priorities and attempt to repeal his historic health care overhaul.
The first weeks of the new year will be an early test of how the president will deal with a divided Congress, and whether he can build on the victories he secured during the final days of the lame-duck legislative session. And with a host of Republicans readying to run for his job, the administration will simultaneously be laying the groundwork for Obama’s re-election bid, which will be run out of Chicago.
Senior adviser David Axelrod plans to head to Chicago this month, with Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, taking his place at the White House. More staff will follow Axelrod to Chicago, though aides have not yet been asked to commit to making the move.
Obama is also considering naming former Commerce Secretary William Daley to a top White House job, possibly chief of staff, a person familiar with the matter said yesterday. Daley, an executive at JPMorgan Chase, would bring extensive private-sector experience to a White House seeking to counter the notion that the president is anti-business.
The person was not authorized to speak publicly on the manner and requested anonymity.
Despite Republican gains, Obama still holds some leverage — namely a Democratic majority in the Senate that could counter Republican action in the House, and the veto power of the executive branch. He is also coming off a successful run in the final weeks of 2010, having secured wins on a tax compromise with Republicans, a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia and the repeal of the military’s ban on gay service members.
Still, Obama has said there is unfinished business he wants to address this year, including energy legislation and immigration reform.
Preparations are under way for a busy month for Obama, including visits from at least two allies. Obama will host French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, and Chinese President Hu Jintao will be in Washington for a state visit on Jan. 19.
Obama will deliver his State of the Union address later this month, in which he will outline his agenda for the year, including proposals for deficit reduction.