- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2013

With no solution yet for automatic budget cuts due to kick in March 1, both President Obama and congressional lawmakers have decamped from Washington for vacations.

Mr. Obama arrived in Florida Friday night for a four-day, President’s Day weekend of golf lessons and relaxation with a wealthy campaign donor who was once the target of anti-minority bias complaints, while first lady Michelle Obama is vacationing separately in the ski mecca of Aspen, Colo., with their daughters.

The president hit the links Saturday morning at the Floridian Golf Club, a private, gated golf community in Palm City. The White House said Mr. Obama has no plans to leave the golf resort all day.


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Congress will be in recess for the next 10 days, not returning to work until Feb. 25, four days before the “sequestration” cuts are to take effect.

Senate Democrats proposed a $110 billion plan Thursday that would postpone defense cuts for two years and end some agricultural subsidies, but there is no agreement on the horizon with Republicans who control the House of Representatives.

House Democrats tried to stop Congress’s vacation, forcing a vote on the decision to adjourn for the vacation. But Republicans, who control the chamber, won the vote to go home.


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Afterward, Democrats called a press conference to demand the chamber come back into session.

“No deal, no break. We really should be here,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Democrats do control the Senate, and in that chamber they and the GOP agreed to take the weeklong vacation.

The president, who called in his State of the Union address Tuesday for an increase in the federal minimum wage, is savoring some activities that would be unrecognizable to hourly employees.

On Valentine’s Day, Mr. Obama took his wife out to dinner at MiniBar, an exclusive, 12-seat restaurant in the District where the price-fix meal starts at $225 per person, not including beverages.

With mid-level wine pairings, the cost of dinner for two can easily exceed $1,000.

After a quick trip Friday to Chicago to talk about gun violence, Mr. Obama flew on Air Force One to the golf club where he is taking golf lessons from famed instructors Butch Harmon and his son, Claude Harmon III.

White House deputy press

A six-hour “total game evaluation” at their Floridian Golf Club costs $1,500 per person.

The president is staying in Florida at the home of Jim Crane, who owns the golf club and also owns the Houston Astros baseball team.

In 2012, Mr. Crane donated $35,800 to the Obama campaign and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee.

Fifteen years ago, a company owned by Mr. Crane, Eagle USA Airfreight, was criticized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for its position on hiring blacks and women of child-bearing age.

The EEOC said that Mr. Crane’s company conducted a practice of paying “female and minority employees less than white men who do similar work; did not investigate employee complaints of sexual harassment; and destroyed evidence that the company was instructed to retain as part of the two-year EEOC investigation,” according to a Houston Chronicle article from 2000.

The EEOC found that Eagle failed to promote blacks, Hispanics and women.

The agency’s report cited an accusation that Mr. Crane told his managers not to hire blacks because “once you hire blacks, you can never fire them.”

Mr. Crane and his company fought the EEOC and similar accusations contained in a lawsuit brought by former employees.

Without admitting wrongdoing, he later settled the charges for $8.5 million.

Asked about the symbolism of the president vacationing with wealthy donors while pushing a middle-class agenda, White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest defended Mr. Obama’s holiday plans.

“The president of the United States is the president of the United States 24 hours a day, and will fulfill his responsibilities as president even while he’s getting some well-deserved down time with some friends this weekend,” Mr. Earnest said.

“I don’t think the American people will begrudge him that.”