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Obama to Present First Budget to Congress

President Barack Obama presents his first budget proposal to Congress Thursday, and administration officials say it will seek a $634 billion fund for health care reform as well as cuts in some programs.

The president has said he intends to cut the U.S. government's budget deficit in half in four years, despite the need for large amounts of new spending in attempts to reverse the country's economic decline.

On Wednesday, President Obama called for new, stronger regulation for the financial industry after meeting at the White House with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the top members of two Congressional financial committees.

Mr. Obama said part of the reason for the current financial crisis is that federal regulations lagged behind changes in the markets.

In an interview on U.S. television, Geithner said he is "deeply offended" by judgments made by the nation's financial institutions. He said they have created a "deep hole of public distrust" and have an obligation to restore it.

The plan has raised fears that the Obama administration might go further and nationalize troubled banks. But Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee Wednesday that the government has no plans to do that.

Mr. Obama says his budget will invest in energy, health care, and education, areas he says are critical to the nation's economic future. In an address to Congress Tuesday, he said the economic stimulus plan he signed last week is a step toward recovery, and he vowed the nation will "emerge stronger than before."

Public opinion surveys taken right after Mr. Obama's speech by CNN and CBS show his plans won overwhelming approval from viewers. But new economic data Wednesday showed why some Americans remain concerned about the economy, as home sales and home prices fell, while layoffs soared.

In the Republican response to the speech, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said his party is ready to work with the president but stressed that legislation proposed by Democrats with a goal of growing the economy will only serve to grow the government.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.