CHILMARK, Mass. (AP) — President Barack Obama’s summer vacation has begun.
Obama arrived on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard on Friday, a day earlier than originally scheduled, for a 17-day break before he plunges into a busy September and fresh battles with the Republican-controlled Congress over Iran, spending and other issues.
Obama, Michelle Obama, daughter Sasha and dogs Bo and Sunny flew aboard Air Force One to the Coast Guard station on Cape Cod, before boarding helicopters for the short hop to Martha’s Vineyard, the summer hangout for the wealthy just to the south.
The president arrived at his vacation home in Chilmark, the same seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom property he rented last year, after a 20-minute drive over the picturesque island’s gently rolling hills and verdant green spaces.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama realized he could spend Friday night on the island after all and “get started on his vacation first thing (Saturday) morning” so he decided to go for it.
Obama sounded jovial earlier Friday as he wrapped up his duties at the White House and looked ahead to the getaway. “I know you’ll miss me,” he joked to reporters who watched him sign a bill to preserve wilderness land in Idaho.
The president tries to lay low during vacation, and aides said he was not expected to make any news during his stay.
The vacation is Obama’s sixth on the island since he became president. He did not vacation here during his 2012 re-election campaign.
With no official appearances scheduled, Obama will fill his days with leisurely rounds of golf, beach outings, bike rides and hikes with his wife and daughers, and dinner with Mrs. Obama and their friends at some of the island’s top restaurants.
He traveled with a small group of aides, including national security adviser Susan Rice, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and others, who will update him as developments warrant.
There is a chance that Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination to succeed Obama, will see each other on the island. They are expected to attend a birthday party for Ann Jordan, the wife of Democratic adviser Vernon Jordan.
Obama and his aides are hoping for a more relaxed summer getaway. Last year’s vacation began as the U.S. started launching airstrikes against Islamic militant targets in Iraq. He interrupted the vacation several times to address political developments in Iraq, the beheading of American journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants and violent protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man by a white police officer.
Obama later was criticized for heading to the golf course immediately after condemning Foley’s killing.
He also returned to the White House in the middle of last year’s vacation to attend meetings. There are no plans for a similar trip before Obama’s vacation ends on Aug. 23.
September will bring congressional votes on the Iran nuclear deal that most Republicans and some Democrats oppose, along with negotiations over the federal budget and a pair of White House visits by Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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