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Obama Refocuses on Economy After Foreign Trip

After a whirlwind international trip that included three summits, President Obama was back at work at the White House Thursday.

"It is good to be back. We have had a productive week working to advance America's interests around the world," he said.

The president quickly refocused on the economy, urging Americans to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance their home mortgages.

Mr. Obama also announced new steps to improve health care for military veterans and to address the growing number of vets who are homeless.

"And we will not rest until we reach a day when not one single veteran falls into homelessness," he said.

Many of the president's priorities are contained in a budget plan recently approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

But Mr. Obama's return to his domestic agenda also brings a reminder that not a single Republican supported his budget largely because of fears that the plan spends too much, taxes too much and will lead to a much larger deficit.

Among those Republicans leading the opposition to the Obama budget is Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

"America is in the midst of a fiscal and an economic crisis. And yes, the president did inherit this fiscal crisis," he said. "But the question is, is he fixing it or is he making it worse?"

Many Democrats are just as adamant in their support of the president, despite his promise in last year's presidential campaign to find ways to work with Republicans.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sees the budget battle as a clash of two parties with different priorities for the country's future.

"The American people want us to find our common ground where we can, but they did not send us here to split the difference. They want real change and we have come here to make a difference, and we will do just that," she said.

The president returned from his foreign trip energized by new polls that showed a bump up in his approval ratings - up to 66 percent in two new polls.

Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown says so far Mr. Obama appears to have the upper hand in the budget battle.

"The Republicans have tried to make the argument that he is trying to do too many things at once. A majority of Americans don't think that. They think there are a lot of things that have to be taken care of, and they like the fact that he is attacking many problems at once," he said.

Brown says result poll results indicate most Americans are willing to give Mr. Obama some time to turn the economy around.

"If people think the economy is better and they think their lives are better, then President Obama will be in very good shape. If after a period of time, whatever it is, six months, a year, two years, they judge that he has not been able to turn things around, then one would likely see that his approval numbers will come down," said Brown.

Former journalist turned political analyst Richard Wolffe predicts the president has about a year to show progress on the economy before the public might turn on him.

Wolffe spoke on VOA's Issues in the News program.

"If the economy doesn't show signs of life, I would say by the spring of next year at the latest, this administration's going to be in serious trouble," said Wolffe.

Mr. Obama wants Congress to deal with health care and education reform in the months ahead, as well as the need to make the United States more energy independent.

The New York Times reports the administration will also address the divisive issue of illegal immigration in the weeks ahead, further complicating the president's congressional agenda.