Obama Returning To Washington As Fiscal Cliff Looms

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HONOLULU, Hawaii - With the country barreling towards the "fiscal cliff," President Obama is interrupting his Hawaiian holiday vacation to return to the gridlock in Washington.

The president will depart Hawaii for Washington late Wednesday, the White House announced today. The first lady and daughters, Malia and Sasha, will remain on their vacation.

Obama told reporters last week that he is a "hopeless optimist" and continues to believe a budget deal can be reached before broad tax increases and steep spending cuts kick in on Jan. 1, threatening to plunge the nation back into a recession. House Speaker John Boehner has admitted "God only knows" the solution to the standoff.

With the deadline less than a week away, lawmakers are also due to be back in Washington on Thursday. Obama's return was expected. He told reporters at the White House Friday that he would "see you next week."

The president spent Christmas with friends and family at his vacation house in Kailua, a cozy beach town on the east coast of Oahu.