(Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Thursday scrapped his trip to Indonesia and Australia scheduled for next week to focus on the final push for a U.S. healthcare overhaul, the White House said.

Barack Obama | Indonesia | Healthcare Reform

"The president greatly regrets the delay," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters, saying the Indonesia visit would be reset for June.

Obama had intended to use the March 21-26 trip, his first foreign travel of the year, to deepen U.S. ties in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of rising Chinese influence there.

He said Obama, who had been due to leave on Sunday on his first foreign travel of the year, had called Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and would to phone Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to tell them of the change in plans.

Obama had already put off his departure by three days to try to win congressional approval of healthcare reform, his top legislative priority and an issue expected to figure heavily in pivotal U.S. congressional elections in November.

"It is clear that a final vote on health insurance reform cannot take place before Sunday afternoon," Gibbs said.

He said Obama was telling Yudhoyono and Rudd "he must postpone his planned visits for a later date so that he can remain in Washington for this critical vote."

Gibbs said Obama believed his fellow Democrats would have the votes to pass the sweeping legislation.

While acknowledged that "international alliances are critical to America's security and economic progress," Gibbs insisted "passage of health insurance reform is of paramount importance and the president is determined to see this battle through."

Gibbs dismissed the notion that Obama's delay of a major foreign trip because of his domestic agenda would send a negative message overseas about Washington's commitment.

He said Obama still believed the Asia-Pacific tour would be important but that he "believes that right now this is the place to be, in Washington, seeing this through."

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, editing by Jackie Frank)