President Barack Obama and the first family played tennis and took in the sights around a Maine resort Saturday even as he contemplated a new struggle over jobless benefits with his GOP foes.
After a first vacation day packed with biking, boating and a visit to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, Saturday's program was more laid-back. The Obamas went to the Bar Harbor Club to play tennis and "hang out" at the pool, spokesman Bill Burton said.
Then they motorcaded across Mount Desert Island to a hotel overlooking Southwest Harbor. Lunch was served against a backdrop of sailboats swinging at anchor in a gentle breeze.
The Obamas toured Bass Harbor Head Light, in the southwest corner of Acadia National Park. Built in 1858 on an outcrop overlooking Blue Hill Bay, the lighthouse is run by the Coast Guard. "It looks spectacular," Obama said as he and his family were led on a tour.
They climbed to the top of the light and held fast to its railing as first dog Bo frolicked on a path below. A pair of surprised kayakers paddled in close for a look, and a pleasure boat motored slowly past, its excited passengers jumping to their feet and waving. The Obamas waved back.
After the lighthouse, it was a 3-minute motorcade and off they went hiking in the park, which takes in 47,000 acres of island, granite hills, pine forests and rocky coast.
The three-day vacation was due to end Sunday morning — a brief respite from the pressures and policy clashes of Washington.
Awaiting Obama in Washington this coming week: a victory lap — and another battle.
On Wednesday, the president plans to sign into law the financial market overhaul that Congress approved last week after a year of often-bitter partisan wrangling. The most far-reaching rewrite of trading and consumer law since the New Deal, Obama has hailed it as vital to economic recovery, along with his stimulus and health care plans. GOP foes called it yet another example of government overreach that will create more problems than it solves.
Meantime, in his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama excoriated Senate Republicans for blocking a fresh extension of unemployment benefits on the grounds that it was not being paid for by offsetting spending cuts. Obama contended that Republicans are seeking to balance the budget "on the backs of the unemployed" — and unreasonably demanding offsets in spending that they didn't require for an extension of President George W. Bush's high-end tax cuts.
Republicans leaders counter that under Obama, red ink is out of control, and that even long-accepted deficit spending has to cease.
The standoff left 2.5 million jobless Americans without benefits from the end of May.
Senate Democratic leaders aim to return to the issue Tuesday, right after Democrat Carte Goodwin is sworn in as West Virginia senator. Goodwin, a longtime aide to Gov. Joe Manchin, was named by Manchin on Friday to finish out the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd's term, and Democrats hope he can provide the 60th vote to break the GOP filibuster.
Acadia National Park: http://www.nps.gov/acad
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