WASHINGTON — Congress handed President Obama another victory the night of April 2 approving nearly all the elements of his $3.5 trillion budget and clearing the way for sweeping health care, education, and clean energy reform.

Obama’s budget which will take effect Oct. 1, allocates $115 billion in federal aid to education, nearly three times more than ex-President George W. Bush’s budget. For a health care reform fund, Obama allocates $634 billion, and for alternative energy and green jobs, $150 billion.

The House and Senate also voted to preserve beyond the 2010 expiration Obama’s tax cuts for working families although the lawmakers stopped short of making Obama’s $800 tax credit for working families permanent. Both houses also voted to allow expiration of ex-president George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, amid gnashing of teeth by the Republican right.

The party-line vote for the non-binding Budget Resolution was 233 to 196 in the House and 55 to 43 in the Senate.

American’s United for Change released a statement signed by 100 unions and other grassroots organizations on the eve of the vote. “It is our firm belief that if (Obama’s budget) priorities are enacted we will turn back the trend of rising poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness,” the statement said.

The Republican leadership cobbled together their alternative that included a scheme to destroy Medicare by imposing Bush’s taxpayer subsidies of private Medical accounts. They also proposed drastic cuts in education and other human needs funding while preserving tax cuts for the rich. The GOP’s plan was so extreme that 30 Republicans in the House joined the Democrats in shooting it down.

For a time, a handful of conservative Blue Dog Democrats flirted with the idea of joining Republicans to block key programs, notably Obama’s “cap and trade” plan to reduce carbon emissions that cause global climate change. In the end, that program was approved. Only 20 Democrats voted with the Republicans.

Lawmakers backbones were stiffened by an outpouring of constituent support for Obama’s plan. Organizing for America (OFA) volunteers went door-to-door in all 50 states and collected more than 640,000 pledges of support for President Obama’s 2010 budget. The pledges were hand-delivered to lawmakers’ offices the day before the vote.

Maggie Flanigan, 14, and Rose Nelson, 15, answered the president’s appeal and recruited 12 people to knock on doors in Salt Lake City, March 28 asking voters to sign the pledge. Flanigan had volunteered as much as 40 hours weekly in the Obama election campaign last year.

OFA is Obama’s post-election group based on the 13 million volunteers in his campaign database who will help push through the new president’s agenda.

Teacher Robert Archuleta, who spent 34 years in the Salt Lake City public schools, hailed the door-to-door effort. “Everyone in Utah is feeling good about Obama’s education budget,” Archuleta told the World by phone. “Cutbacks were being planned but funds from the stimulus package arrived and they were able to put those layoffs on hold.”

Archuleta praised the youth for jumping on the bandwagon. “A lot of the credit for that goes to Obama himself who has inspired young people to get involved and make the changes. There is a spirit in Utah and in the country that change for the better is coming,” he added.

Charles Strickland, 65, of Port Angeles, Wash., telephoned his senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both Democrats, to ask them to support Obama’s budget.

Strickland accused Republicans of “hypocrisy” in whipping up hysteria against deficit spending. “This is not the time to worry about running up the national debt,” he said. “They should have been worrying about that debt over the past eight years when they were pouring tens of billions down that rat-hole in Iraq.”

Washington State’s government, he said, is struggling because of the economic crisis. “Only the federal government can help prevent a collapse,” he told the World in a phone interview.

OFA Media Director Natalie Wyeth told the World via email that one of the volunteers in Denver, Colo., had voted for John McCain but spent last Saturday collecting pledges for the Obama budget. A canvasser in Pennsylvania knocked on the door of a Republican and opened a friendly conversation about the need for Obama’s budget.

“That speaks to one of OFA’s objectives,” she said, “to engage voters across the country in a dialogue regardless of their political affiliation about the important issues facing our country and provide them with the tools needed to play a part in the legislative process.”

AUFC spokesman Jeremy Funk said the coalition is planning town hall meetings on health care reform in the weeks ahead and tax day picketlines April 15 at post offices across the nation to protest Republicans’ hard line defense of Bush tax cuts for the rich.

greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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