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Obama drives ahead with domestic agenda - and vacation - amid Ukraine crisis

CNN
Friday, March 7, 2014 - 12:12pm

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The standoff between President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin isn't preventing the U.S. leader from pressing forward with the ambitious domestic agenda he laid out in January's State of the Union address.

The foreign policy crisis has occupied the bulk of Obama's workdays this week, though he's also carved out time to introduce his budget proposal, press lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, and encourage Latinos to sign up for Obamacare - all topics Republicans fiercely oppose. On Friday the President visits a school in Miami to encourage more teenagers to apply for college financial aid.

It's a balance Obama has attempted to strike throughout his presidency, from navigating the Arab Spring to sizing up the young new leader of North Korea - all while attempting to shore up a sputtering U.S. economy.

The President also isn't letting the incursion of Russian troops into Ukraine's Crimea peninsula prevent him and his family from enjoying a weekend away from Washington, currently beset by cold temperatures and sloppy piles of melting snow.

While the White House signaled earlier in the week that a long-planned getaway in South Florida could be nixed due to overseas events, the official presidential schedule still shows the commander-in-chief and his wife remaining in Key Largo for the weekend.

The President always vacations with a full retinue of aides and secure communications equipment, meaning the requirements of the job won't be far away during Obama's stay in the Florida Keys. All presidents are routinely criticized for taking vacation days.

Local media reports indicate the Obamas will stay at the Ocean Reef Club, a private compound that still enforces a dress code "designed to complement today's more casual lifestyles while still respecting the Club's longstanding traditions." It boasts 36 holes of golf for the President to enjoy and spas and restaurants for his family.

Earlier this year Obama tacked a weekend of golf in California onto a meeting with the king of Jordan at the Sunnyland's estate near Palm Springs, California. And he golfed regularly on his annual Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

At his event Friday, staged at a Miami magnet high school, the President will try to persuade more students to complete the paperwork required to obtain federal financial aid for college.

The White House says the U.S. Department of Education will begin identifying individual students who haven't filed out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and use the information to try and convince students to apply.

It's part of the President's attempts to increase opportunities for middle class Americans, which has been the goal of Obama's second-term domestic agenda. Part of the push has included pressing Congress to increase the federal minimum wage.

During remarks on Wednesday in Connecticut, Obama said that the global flash points that have sprung up during his tenure should serve as a reminder of the importance of fortifying the American middle class.

"There's been a lot of news about foreign affairs around the world over the last several days, but also for the last couple years," Obama said. "It doesn't matter whether it's in Central Europe or in the Middle East or Africa -- individuals want a chance to make it if they try. And what makes us special is we already do that when we're at our best. But we've got some work to do to match up our ideals with the reality that's happening on the ground right now."

The-CNN-Wire
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