WASHINGTON – President Obama’s first bus tour of his second term will bring him back to metro Buffalo next week, as the president embarks on a two-day trip across upstate New York and Pennsylvania to tout his agenda for the middle class.
Sources told The Buffalo News on Monday that the president plans to visit the Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton and Scranton, Pa., areas.
A presidential advance team recently traveled to Buffalo to make plans for the visit, said a source who indicated that many details of the trip remain secret for now.
The White House confirmed that an upstate trip was in the works, but did not provide details.
“On Thursday, Aug. 22, and Friday, Aug. 23, the president will travel through New York and Pennsylvania on a two-day bus tour to discuss another cornerstone of his vision for a better bargain for the middle class,” said Keith Maley, the White House spokesman. “More details on the president’s travel will be released as they become available.”
A top Washington Democrat with close ties to the White House said the trip is part of Obama’s ongoing effort to visit cities across the country, focusing on different pocketbook issues along the way.
Obama kicked off his effort with a speech on the economy at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., on July 24. The president then visited an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 30 to promote his jobs agenda and traveled to Phoenix on Aug. 6 to discuss housing.
The upstate trip is likely to focus on one particular economic issue, as well, though the White House has not yet said what that will be, the senior Democrat said.
Obama last traveled to Western New York in May 2010, when he visited a Buffalo factory to tout his economic agenda. He also met with the Flight 3407 families and made an unscheduled stop at Duff’s Famous Chicken Wings in Cheektowaga.
Since then, the president has established himself as a frequent traveler, both internationally and in the United States. His last bus trip, during his re-election campaign against Republican Mitt Romney, took place last September in Florida.
The National Taxpayers Union Foundation recently issued a study showing that in his first term, Obama traveled abroad more than any other president except for George H.W. Bush.
Obama’s frequent campaign-style forays around the country have earned him harsh criticism from Republicans who say he should be working harder to tend to business in the nation’s capital.
The president’s upcoming upstate trip, which will follow his eight-day vacation with his family at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., will come during a congressional recess that’s widely seen as the calm before the storm.
When Congress returns to work on Sept. 9, lawmakers and the president will find themselves short on time to grapple with several contentious issues.
Congress must act by Sept. 30 to fund the government for the coming fiscal year, or to at least pass a stopgap measure to keep the government running until the White House and Congress strike a budget deal.
Reaching that deal probably won’t be easy, given that some House Republicans are demanding that the new spending plan remove funds for Obama’s signature accomplishment, the massive health care reform bill, major provisions of which are set to take effect Jan. 1. And if the two parties don’t agree on a budget deal or at least a stopgap plan, a government shutdown would ensue.
Later in the fall, Congress will have to pass legislation once again raising the federal debt ceiling – or else allow the nation to fall into default, which almost happened during an epic battle over the issue in the summer of 2011.
Meantime, House Republicans will be under pressure to take up the landmark immigration reform bill passed by the Senate earlier this year.
With all those important issues pending, Obama’s recent political travels could be seen as a way of influencing public opinion before the bruising battles ahead.
Then again, in the case of Obama’s upcoming visit to Buffalo, it may simply be something he just wants to do.
“The president had a great trip to Buffalo when we went in 2010 and he said then that he looked forward to coming back soon,” said Bill Burton, a Buffalo native who served as deputy White House press secretary at the time.