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Congress and Obama likely to delay start of their holiday breaks

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Gibbs says the president will stay in Washington for as long as Congress is in session
  • The Senate is likely to continue working past the scheduled start of its break, Gibbs says
  • Obama wants the Senate to ratify the START treaty and repeal "don't ask, don't tell"

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama will remain in Washington for as long as Congress stays in session, and that likely means later than the scheduled start of his Christmas break, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.

Saturday is supposed to be the start of the Senate's Christmas recess and the day Obama and the first family head for Hawaii.

However, Gibbs told reporters that a Saturday departure appears unlikely.

"I think the Senate is going to be in longer than this week," he said, adding that Obama will stay in Washington for "as long as the Congress is here."

Obama is pushing Senate Republicans to allow votes on Democratic priorities, including repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bars openly gay and lesbian soldiers from the military, and a measure that provides a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Gibbs said he expects the Senate to ratify a new START nuclear arms treaty with Russia and to take up the "don't ask, don't tell" and immigration measures before it ends the current lame-duck session.

Obama and the Democratic Party want the votes on those measures to occur now because they lose control of the House and will have a diminished Senate majority in the new session of Congress that convenes in January.

However, Senate Republicans have blocked action on the Obama priorities, and it is unclear how much will get done by the end of the year.

Gibbs said a majority of senators support the START treaty and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," adding that he believes there is plenty of time for the Senate to consider both.

Debate on the START treaty could start as soon as Monday, Gibbs said, after the Senate holds a procedural vote on the tax and benefits package Obama negotiated with Republicans.