After a rough fall spent trying to recover from the botched rollout of healthcare.gov, President Obama is no doubt looking forward to his annual year-end holiday escape to Hawaii.
The Senate on Thursday approved the first budget deal in years that didn't threaten to keep lawmakers working into Christmas week, leaving Obama, his family and a coterie of close friends free to depart for a 17-day trip to Hawaii as scheduled Friday evening.
The vacation will cost taxpayers an estimated $4 million and fill the sleepy town of Kailua and its miles of beautiful beaches with street barricades and security personnel protecting the Obamas’ rented vacation home.
Over the past week, the small beachside community on O'ahu's windward side has been experiencing the now telltale signs of the first family's arrival - a string of black SUVs and government-issued vans parked in front of homes where the Secret Service, Navy SEALs and Coast Guard are staying, as the Hawaii Reporter detailed.
“Coast Guard officials have contacted boat owners in the area to remind them [that] the canal and popular surf spot fronting the private beachfront homes where the president will vacation beginning Friday are off limits for 17 days,” the article says. “The Coast Guard also has released information on the temporary security zone that will be enforced from 6 a.m. on Friday to 10 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2014.”
The restrictions on local residents and other vacationers prevent the use of boats, surfing and paddling in the ocean in front of many of Kailua's beach-front homes in order to protect the president.
The president was born in Hawaii and spent some of his childhood years there. Still Obama brings his wife, daughters, several extended family members, close friends -- and the first family's pets -- to Hawaii every Christmas.
The vacation’s cost has been controversial from the start. The president and his friends pay for their own rental homes—about $25,000 a week in total, but the taxpayers pick up the $4 million bill for everything else – the cost of travel on Air Force One, security, waterfront housing for the Secret Service, Navy SEALs and Coast Guard, as well as accommodations for White House staff who are scheduled to stay at the luxurious Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel on Waikiki Beach.
Rooms at the Moana can cost as much as $670 dollars a night for an ocean view at Christmas. The hotel offers discounted government rates for about $255 per night, according to the Hawaii Reporter.
Other highlights from the Hawaii Reporter story:
The biggest expense is Obama’s roundtrip flight to Hawaii on Air Force One, which costs taxpayers $3,271,622, according to Michael Tasselmyer of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation and a Congressional Research Service report released in May 2012.
The cost of flying the U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane that carries the presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment to Hawaii and back is $258,000.
The houses the Obamas rent are fronted by the ocean and backed by a canal so taxpayers have to cover the costs of housing the Secret Service, Coast Guard and Navy SEALs in beachfront and canal homes for an estimated total cost of $176,400.
Local taxpayers pick up the tab for local police overtime for a total of $250,000. An additional $10,000 is spent on an around-the-clock ambulance detail.
Last year, Obama left for Hawaii before Congress cinched the budget deal to avoid falling off the so-called “fiscal cliff” and was forced to return to Washington just after Christmas to complete negotiations and sign the bill. That move cost taxpayers at least an extra $3 million, based on an estimated 18 hour round-trip flying time between Washington and Honolulu and the known costs of flying Air Force One – $180,000 an hour.