WASHINGTON -- President Clinton and his family are still stuck in the capital, where they can only dream about their postponed beach vacation on Martha's Vineyard. But taxpayers have already begun to foot the bill.
Since Monday, when the Clintons had planned to hole up on the Massachusetts island that Hillary Rodham Clinton remembers as just perfect," the tab has quietly been running for dozens of rooms and residences rented for the presidential entourage.
Lodging space is so scarce at the height of the summer season, aides to Mr. Clinton say, that the White House had no choice but to make its best guess about when Congress might wrap up business and then agree to pay for the rooms regardless if they were used. But having gambled and lost, the costs to the White House and, thus, to taxpayers are mounting.
With his health care plan in trouble, Mr. Clinton is still playing "you first" with the Senate to see who will call it quits. The White House says the president will remain in Washington as long as the Senate remains at work.
DStill, Mr. Clinton's aides concede that the president is waiting for a sign that Sen. George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Democratic leader, will allow a break long enough to let the Clintons head for the beach.
Because the Clintons themselves will stay at a house lent to them by Boston developer Richard Friedman, their tardiness in getting away is not carrying any financial burden.
But for advance people and other aides, and for the Secret
Service agents and military communications experts who will be Mr. Clinton's companions -- if the vacation ever begins -- the White House has already rented costly accommodations.
Noting that many of those traveling with Mr. Clinton will be along for security reasons, White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers declined to say how large the presidential party would be or to estimate the forfeited costs.