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By Ray Fleming

WITH the passage by the US Congress on Thursday of a financial regulatory bill President Obama achieved in eighteen months a hat-trick of major legislation that puts him on par with President Roosevelt in the 1930s -- the stimulus bill, the health care reform bill and now a bill to control dodgy mortgages and easy credit cards and to regulate banks and Wall Street. It is an impressive record and shows that Barack Obama has a real ability to push bills through Congress. Yet his ratings are falling and the Democrats are expected to lose seats, even control, in the Congressional elections in November.

President Obama's problem, of course, can be stated in two words: unemployment and Afghanistan. Neither of these can be solved just by legislation. Unemployment hovers just below the ten per cent mark and confusion reigns over aims and withdrawal dates in Afghanistan. The BP oil-spill may be another item among the factors that led six out of ten voters to tell a Washington Post poll this week that they think Obama gets things wrong more often than right. It's a harsh judgement, but that's politics. What is certainly clear is that Obama will scale down his ambitions for the energy bill which is next in line in Congress, at least until the mid-term elections are out of the way. But that means further delay on climate change progress.