By Manuel Quinones
Members of Maryland's Congressional Delegation say preventing economic collapse was their top achievement for 2009.
The Nation's first African American president came to office with his party in control of Congress. Democrat Donna Edwards was thrilled by the possibilities.
"Health care, energy and education," says Edwards. "You could not have three stronger priorities."
The economy would have to come first. President Obama signed the $787 billion recovery package in February.
Lawmakers also approved measures to deal with foreclosures and the ailing auto industry. Remember 'Cash for Clunkers?'
Senator Barbara Mikulski says the efforts made a difference.
"We were able to through the stimulus package, begin to create jobs in our country, we prevented massive layoffs," says Mikulski.
Republicans say the stimulus has been ineffective and wasteful. The White House says it put almost 7,000 Marylanders to work. Still, supporters like Sen. Ben Cardin know it was not a slam dunk.
"We're not satisfied with the current status of the economy," says Cardin. "I think if we didn't do what we did with the recovery act and other measures that we took, it would have been a lot worse."
This year Congress added more oversight to the 2008 "TARP" program to help troubled and healthy banks deal with the economic meltdown. Almost 20 Maryland financial companies got a government boost, including Sandy Spring Bank. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer argued for the new rules.
"We are for very substantial oversight of TARP and how it's spent," he says.
Lawmakers also cracked down on credit cards and tobacco products. And the House passed landmark legislation to deal with global warming. That's in the Senate's in-box for next year along with tough new rules for Wall Street and a new jobs package. Democrats are hoping for a significant turnaround in advance of the midterm elections, fearing the stubborn economy may jeopardize their majority in Congress.