Obama pushes - and gets pushed

Week seven: President promotes housing rescue and economic stimulus, but budget plan meets resistance on Capitol Hill.

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By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- President Obama continued this week to push his proposals to bolster the economy, stem the housing crisis and explore ways to reform health care.

But the economy remains in dire condition and Obama's budget plan, which forecasts a deficit of $1.75 trillion this year, encountered some resistance in Congress from both sides of the aisle.

In his seventh week in office, Obama released details of his $75 billion foreclosure prevention plan, and the first few infrastructure projects funded by the administration's $787 billion stimulus plan got underway.

On Tuesday, lawmakers grilled top administration officials for proposing tax cuts and expenditures as the government commits billions of tax dollars to ailing financial companies and automakers.

Meanwhile, the economy continues to lose jobs at an alarming rate, with unemployment coming in at a 25-year high Friday. And two of the major stock indexes touched 12-year lows as investors remain worried about the future of major financial institutions.

Among other things, the budget calls for a $634 billion health-care reserve fund to help move the country closer to the goal of universal coverage.

To that end, Obama held a summit Thursday with medical professionals, lawmakers and everyday patients to discuss ways to reform the nation's health care system.

Obama also signed a memorandum designed to save the federal government $40 billion a year by overhauling what he calls the "broken system of government contracting."

Looking ahead, Obama and Vice President Biden will host a conference with state officials at the White House next week to discuss the implementation of the stimulus bill.

"Our hope for this conference is to meet face-to-face with the state officials and streamline this implementation process so we can get our economy running again," Biden said in a statement.

100-day scorecard: Week 6

CNNMoney.com will continue to track Obama's first 100 days in office and keep score of the government's unprecedented efforts to fix the ailing economy. (Last week's article is available here.)

Housing: The administration's $75 billion foreclosure prevention program was launched Wednesday.

The plan calls for companies to help as many 4 million struggling borrowers by modifying loans so housing payments are no more than 31% of monthly gross income.

Homeowners who haven't missed a payment, meanwhile, can refinance into lower-cost loans even if they have little or no equity. This is expected to help up to 5 million homeowners.

The program provides incentives to borrowers, servicers and mortgage investors. The government will also subsidize interest rate reductions to get borrowers to affordable monthly payments.

Borrowers must meet certain criteria to qualify for the program. And while homeowners are encouraged to contact lenders immediately, companies said it would be several weeks before they can start processing applications.

Stimulus: The first $26.6 billion of Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus plan was released to state and local transportation authorities, for the building and rebuilding of roads, highways and bridges.

American Infrastructure, a Worcester, Pa.-based civil construction company, said Tuesday it received $2.1 million in federal funding to begin a road repaving project in Maryland.

The Department of Transportation said it has identified 100 projects, which can begin work within one month, for funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

A major goal of the stimulus plan is to save or create 3.5 million jobs. The $26.6 billion in highway funds is expected to generate 150,000 jobs through the end of 2010.

Congress: Three of Obama's main economic advisers went before Congress Tuesday to answer questions about the administration's budget request.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and White House budget director Peter Orszag testified in hearings before House and Senate budget committees.

In addition to pointed questions about Obama's big plans to overhaul energy and health care policy, the trio were also pressed on the use of taxpayer dollars to bailout AIG and other financial companies.

"It's not a partisan attack on you when you hear some of us saying that we are very concerned about where we're going to be at the level of federal debt in the next five years ... a lot of that hinges on how successful the plans that you're putting out there are," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said to Geithner at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

Obama: The president remained visible throughout the week, promoting his proposals both at the White House and outside it.

On Tuesday, in a photo opportunity with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he tried to talk up the flagging stock market. "Profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it," he said.

In Columbus, Ohio, on Friday for a police cadet graduation ceremony, he again urged support for his efforts.

"All of this takes time, and it will take patience. It will entail great effort and cooperation," he said. "But most of all, it will require a renewed sense of responsibility from every American, a responsibility to ourselves and one another."  To top of page

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