WASHINGTON--Eight days into his presidency Barack Obama watched the U.S. House pass more than $800 billion worth of spending and tax cuts -- an unprecedented package in scope aimed at resurrecting an economy mired in recession.
His early victory, despite steadfast opposition from House Republicans, showed the potential path ahead for the Democratic president: Mr. Obama can reach out to the GOP as much as he wants, but he doesn't really need their support in the House.
He will need to curry more favor in the Senate, where Republicans hold just enough seats to block any legislation.
Below is a look at the road ahead on five key issues.
Access to Capital
Like the rest of America, Hispanics rank the economy as the top issue of the day. And for many it's personal. They've been denied a loan themselves or worked on a construction project halted due to lack of funding.
Economists agree that the country's dismal financial state will not turn around until banks begin to lend money again and consumer confidence grows.
Congress had hoped its $700 billion bailout package passed last fall would be a magic bullet to spark new lending. But plagued by questions about where and how the money was to be distributed, now lawmakers are trying to reform the Troubled Assets Relief Program by adding oversight of how Treasury doles out the money.
And where nothing existed to bring women and minority-owned institutions into the program before, the House now wants an "Office of Minority and Women Inclusion" established at Treasury.
"We need to look at our procurement processes for Hispanic contractors and we need to make sure they get their fair share," said Rep. Nydia M. Velásquez, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee.
Meanwhile, Obama's economic stimulus package would generate nearly $1.2 billion in new loans to Hispanic-owned firms, Velásquez said, based on federal lending trends since 2004.
Obama's pledged social reforms will face the most scrutiny in Congress, where after passing two bills totaling more than $1.5 trillion within six months of each other, lawmakers are eager to show constituents they can exercise some fiscal restraint.
"Everything is going to go through a lot of hurdles just because of the economic situation," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., the top-ranking Hispanic in the House.
But he said that does not mean Democratic leaders will dial back their education agenda.
"It's like a patient following half the orders of a doctor -- that's not how to take care of yourself," Mr. Becerra said.
Business groups support changing No Child Left Behind to decrease dropout rates, invest in English Language Learners, and close the achievement gap facing minority students.
With hundreds of schools still not making the mark and the federal government's 2014 deadline for school proficiency closing in, some education experts have suggested scrapping the 2014 goal and moving away from what has become near-constant federally mandated, standardized testing of students.
The stimulus bill included funding for special education and low-income students, and requires states to maintain their current funding efforts. But education reforms, like new investments in and added accountability for charter public schools, will take a back seat temporarily to economic policy debates.
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