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The domestic squabble between the White House and the two chambers of Congress appears to be largely resolved with the reconciliation of the House and Senate versions, finalized yesterday afternoon. The 'Meter has jerked back and forth from the tremors in that fight as Obama banked points for legislative victories and lost them for the failure to attract Republicans. But the fact remains that the bill, mostly intact, is headed for passage. Combined with a few signs of warming from Russia, today's score is a 50 on the Change-o-Meter.
As the New York Times notes, the hasty compromise between the two versions of the stimulus produced something rare in Washington: a final product with a lower price tag than either of the two original versions at a mere $789 billion. (The House passed an $820 billion bill, while the Senate ratcheted it up to $838 billion.) Senate Republicans do not plan to try to delay the final bill's passage, their leader said yesterday. If everything holds together, Obama is likely to sign the bill into law within a few days and has reportedly asked television networks to consider carrying that signing in prime time.
All in all, Obama gets 40 points for this legislative victory. While there is little evidence of a sea change in the way Washington functions, the president got most of what he wanted with relatively little public showing of bad blood between Democrats.
Meanwhile, across the globe, Russia has acknowledged long-distance overtures from the new administration. The Russian foreign minister said as much at a meeting of NGOs in Moscow. Russia may even offer more aid to NATO in Afghanistan, the same minister said. Ten points for tentative signs of easing tensions. That will come in handy when Obama has to make his first tough call on Afghanistan.
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