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05 December 2023

Incoming US first family to spend first full day in capital

In this file photo Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, waves to supporters at an after caucus rally in Des Moines, Iowa, after winning the Iowa democratic presidential caucus (AP)

The family of Barack Obama was to spend its first full day in the US capital Sunday as the president-elect prepared to work on an urgent economic recovery plan and his daughters got ready to start school.

After less that 48 hours in their south Chicago home following their luxury Hawaii Christmas vacation, the president-elect's wife Michelle and their daughters Sasha, 10, and Malia, 7, flew to Washington late Saturday, a transition aide told to AFP.

Obama, two weeks before the 44th American president will be sworn in on January 20, is to join his family Sunday. They are moving temporarily into the historic Hay-Adams Hotel in downtown Washington, which overlooks their new home at the White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It was unclear why the family were traveling separately.

Sasha and Malia are set to begin classes Monday at the exclusive Sidwell Friends School, as dad Obama heads to meetings on Capitol Hill to hammer out the final points of a recovery package in a bid to turn around the country's crumbling economy.

The private, Quaker-run Sidwell has long been the choice for presidential offspring -- the school counts former president Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea and president Richard Nixon's daughters among its well-heeled alumni.

Before moving to the president's official guest home, Blair House, on January 15, the Obama family can enjoy their transition to the Beltway in style -- they are expected to stay in one of the hotel's luxury $6,000-a-night suites.

Built in 1928, the luxury residence is separated from the White House only by Lafayette Square, a grassy square block.

Apart from a November 10 White House meeting with President George W. Bush, Obama has largely avoided Washington since his historic election as the first African-American US president on November 4. Most of his time during the transition period was spent in Chicago.

After their 13-day getaway at a nine-million-dollar rental home in Kailua, Hawaii, the Obama family can expect similar world class luxury at the Hay-Adams, which has rooms with direct and unobstructed view of the White House.

Its lavish room amenities include custom Italian bed linens and towels, goose down duvet and pillows, a Bose CD system with CDs, Fiji water and Etro toiletries.

Obama's agenda, however, may be too stacked in the run up to his January 20 inauguration for him to relax too much.

President Bush has invited Obama to a White House lunch Wednesday, along with former presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

The president-elect and members of his incoming administration are also expected to collaborate closely with Congressional leaders in the coming weeks, as they work on a multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus plan Democrats hope to pass shortly after Obama takes office.

And the ongoing ground and air assault by Israel on the Gaza Strip will also likely press on the president-elect's time, although he has so far declined to comment on the situation.

"The president-elect is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza," said a spokeswoman, adding that there is "one president at a time and we intend to respect that."