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THE PAIN OF SPAIN: Rep. Howard Coble (R., N.C.), co-chair of the House Textile Caucus, criticized on the House floor on Tuesday the seeming extravagance of First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain. Coble, who hails from one of the poorest states in the country, took Obama to task for taking an expensive, four-day vacation to Spain with her daughter Sasha because taxpayers had to foot the bill for the Secret Service detail.
“I make infrequent appearances in the House, but today I feel obliged to express my disappointment of Mrs. Obama’s decision to conduct an elaborate vacation in Spain,” Coble said. “She and members of her entourage are spending lavishly, and American taxpayers will subsidize this vacation with lavish payments, as well.”
The First Lady, who paid for the trip for herself and her daughter out of her own pocket, according to her press secretary, stayed at the luxurious Villa Padierna, a five-star hotel with three 18-hole golf courses about five miles southeast of Marbella. The Tuscan-inspired villas are priced at upward of 2,200 euros, or $2,897, a night.
“With the dismal American economy in the tank, this Spanish vacation…was ill-conceived, ill-timed and generously laced with illogical arrogance,” Coble said. “It is my belief that the First Lady owes an apology to American taxpayers for this exercise in reckless spending.”
The First Lady’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Widespread criticism of Obama’s expensive trip, taken at a time of economic suffering at home, and featured on several networks and in news outlets, could have been deflected if the revelation reported in the Chicago Sun-Times on Monday had been provided by the White House from the outset. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet reported the primary reason for the trip to Spain was to spend time with longtime Chicago friend Anita Blanchard — the obstetrician who delivered Malia and Sasha — because her father died this summer. The First Lady missed the funeral in July. Katie McCormick Lelyveld, press secretary to Michelle Obama, confirmed the accuracy of the report to WWD. In addition to Blanchard, the Sun-Times reported that Obama vacationed with another unnamed friend and, between the three women and four daughters, the group paid for their own hotel rooms and personal expenses. The First Lady’s entourage included six White House staffers and two East Wing staffers, Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Winter and Obama’s personal assistant, Kristen Jarvis. Obama’s office said the Secret Service chose the Villa Padierna for security reasons.