The Democratic-controlled Congress Thursday approved budget blueprints embracing President Barack Obama's agenda but leaving many hard choices until later and a government deeply in the red.
With no Republican support, the House and Senate approved slightly different, less expensive versions of Obama's $3.55 trillion budget plan for fiscal 2010, which begins Oct. 1. The differences will be worked out over the next few weeks.
Obama, who took office in January after eight years of the Republican Bush presidency, has said the Democrats' budget is critical to turning around the recession-hit U.S. economy and paving the way for sweeping healthcare, climate change and education reforms he hopes to push through Congress this year.
Obama, traveling in Europe, issued a statement praising the votes as "an important step toward rebuilding our struggling economy." Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as president of the Senate, presided over that chamber's vote.
In the meantime, European nations pledged Friday on the eve of NATO's 60th anniversary summit that they would support America's new Afghan war strategy with more civilian aid and small troop increases. Obama said Europe should not expect the U.S. to shoulder the military burden alone.
NATO leaders have been reluctant to commit significant new military forces to the deadlocked conflict despite Obama's plan to add 21,000 U.S. troops to the force of 38,000 fighting the rising insurgency. The Europeans have focused on increasing humanitarian and development aid.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged after talks with Obama that his nation would send more police trainers and civilian aid.
"We totally endorse and support America's new strategy in Afghanistan," Sarkozy told a joint news conference. France will contribute to the new U.S. approach with development assistance and more training for police, Sarkozy said.
NATO's ability to succeed in Afghanistan will be seen as a crucial test of the alliance's power and relevance.
Keep track of what Obama has been doing since taking office:
Day 73: McCain Blasts Obama's Plan and the G20 Goes On... (Apr. 2)
Day 72: Obama Plays Down G20 Splits (Apr. 1)
Day 71: Obama's Auto Stance May Include Bankruptcy (Mar. 31)
Day 70: GM, Chrysler Get Ultimatum From Obama on Turnaround (Mar. 30)
Day 68: Obama Announces 3 Treasury Dept. Nominees (Mar. 28)
Day 67: Overhaul of Financial Markets Facing a Bumpy Road (Mar. 27)
Day 66: US Planning Expansion Of Financial Market Oversight (Mar. 26)
Obama is holding a town hall meeting—online. Obama is taking questions in the East Room from the general public. The questions are submitted via the Internet and in person, as part of a political strategy to engage Americans directly.
Day 65: Geithner: Economic Deterioration Starting to Slow (Mar. 25)
Day 64: Obama Sees 'Signs of Progress' on Crisis (Mar. 24)
Day 63: Geithner: New Plan Will Help Credit Flow (Mar. 23)
Day 62: Economy to Rebound Within a Year? (Mar. 22)
Day 61: Ready to Unveil a Toxic Asset Plan (Mar. 21)
Day 60: Reaching Out to Iran & a "Tonight Show" Appearance (Mar. 20)
Day 59: Schwarzenegger Helps Obama (Mar. 19)
Day 58: Obama Officials Sought to Keep AIG Bonuses (Mar. 18)
Day 57: Strict Limits on AIG? (Mar. 17)
Day 56: Obama Gives Boost To Small Businesses and attacks AIG Bonuses (Mar. 16)
Day 53: Obama Speaks To Business Roundtable about Banks (Mar. 15)
Day 52: Geithner: Spending Hikes are Short-Term (Mar. 12)
Day 51: Obama Targets 'Earmarks' in New Spending Bill (Mar. 11)
Day 50: The Halfway Point (Mar. 10)
In his first 50 days, Obama has moved at a lightning pace, passing a $787 billion economic stimulus plan in his first three weeks, announcing financial rescue and housing plans, disclosing a $3.55 trillion budget, kick starting discussions on health care reform, and releasing a withdrawal plan from Iraq and a boost in troop numbers in Afghanistan.
He has also signed orders to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, tighten ethics rules for Executive Branch employees, raise fuel efficiency standards and lift the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
At the same time, there have also been problems with three Cabinet nominees who withdrew, the criticism that Obama is turning his back on his proposal for more bipartisanship and his calls for fewer earmarks, and the imminent fights over his budget blueprint and health care.
But despite the ups and downs during the first 50 days, experts argue that Obama seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of efficiency compared to some of his predecessors.
Obama’s 60 percent approval rating in the most recent NBC/WSJ poll also implies that many Americans remain satisfied with the president so far.
Day 49: Obama OKs Stem Cell Research (Mar. 9)
Day 48: More Appointed to Treasury Department (Mar. 8)
Day 47: Discovering Opportunity in the Crisis (Mar. 7)
Day 46: Obama Touts Economic Gains (Mar. 6)
Day 45: Obama Team Working 'Around the Clock' (Mar. 5)
Day 44: New Housing Plan Launched (Mar. 4)
Day 43: Stimulus Package Looking Hopeful? (Mar. 3)
Day 42: Health Reform Positions Nominated (Mar. 2)
Day 40: Big Budget Fight Ahead (Feb. 28)
Day 39: Obama's Tax Breaks Applauded (Feb. 27)
Day 38: Additional $250 Billion Needed to Help Financial System? (Feb. 26)
Day 37: Obama Lays Out Reform Plans, House Approves $410 Billion Legislation (Feb. 25)
Day 36: Obama's Speech & A New Commerce Secretary (Feb. 24)
Day 35: Obama's Economic Summit (Feb. 23)
Day 34: Obama to Set Big Goals in First Budget (Feb. 22)
Day 33: Obama Begins Tax Cuts (Feb. 21)
Day 32: Obama's Adviser: Crisis May be Worse than Depression (Feb. 20)
Day 30: Obama Unveils $275 Billion Housing Plan (Feb. 18)
Day 29: Stimulus Signed into Law (Feb. 17)
Day 28: White House Wants Changes in Exec. Pay Rules (Feb. 16)
Day 26: Your Weekly Address (Feb. 14)
Day 25: House Approves Stimulus Package (Feb. 13)
Day 24: Key Stimulus Dispute Settled...Sen. Gregg Withdraws (Feb. 12)
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew his nomination as commerce secretary, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with Obama's handling of the economic stimulus and 2010 census. (Full Story)
Day 23: Stimulus Pact Reached (Feb. 11)
Day 22: A New Bank Bailout Plan (Feb. 10)
Day 21: Stimulus Bill Passes Crucial Senate Test (Feb. 9)
Day 20: Stimulus Package This Week? (Feb. 8)
Day 19: Obama Demands Speed on Stimulus (Feb. 7)
Day 18: Strengthening the Economic Stimulus Plan (Feb. 6)
Day 17: Stimulus Bill Debate Continues (Feb. 5)
Day 16: Obama Imposes New Pay Rule (Feb. 4)
Day 15: Withdrawals, Withdrawals... But the Show Goes On (Feb. 3)
Day 14: Obama Targets CEO Pay (Feb. 2)
Day 13: Obama's Bill 'Wastes a Ton of Money': Sen. Kyl (Feb. 1)
Day 12: Your Weekly Address (Jan. 31)
Day 11: Obama Administration Meets with Wall Street Execs. (Jan. 30)
Day 10: Obama: Wall Street Bonuses are 'Outrageous' (Jan. 29)
Day 9: Stimulus Package Passes Vote in House (Jan. 28)
Russia has halted a plan to retaliate against a proposed U.S. missile defense shield by stationing its own missiles near Europe's borders. The suspension of plans, if confirmed, would show Russia is extending an olive branch to Obama after rocky relations under his predecessor. (Full Story)
Day 8: The Stimulus Package Plan Moves Forward (Jan. 27)
Day 7: Obama's New Climate Policies (Jan. 26)
Day 5: Your Weekly Address (Jan. 24)
Day 4: Stimulus Package by President's Day? (Jan. 23)
Auto industry supporters in Congress asked Obama to support another $25 billion in federal loans to help the industry make more fuel efficient cars, seeking over $4 billion in grants and loan guarantees. The White House said Obama and his advisers will evaluate the needs of automakers after reviewing their viability plans in mid-February. (Full Story)
Day 3: House Considers Obama’s Plan (Jan. 22)
Day 2: Back to Business (Jan. 21)
Day 1: Inauguration Day (Jan. 20)