Supplemental Diet

Obama requests $83 billion in extra spending from Congress, mostly for war funding.

The Change-o-Meter is now a widget. You can add it to your blog, Web site, or profile with just a few clicks. (Shortcut for Facebook here.)Each time we publish a new column, the widget will automatically update to reflect the latest score.

President Obama will add immigration reform to his overflowing to-do list, tacking the controversial issue somewhere between “rescue the economy” and “create universal health care.” Saddled with George W. Bush’s last budget for another six months, Obama takes a page from Bush’s finance textbook and requests $75 billion in supplemental war funding but promises to do it correctly next year. Still, more anti-torture measures are a fount of change for a 25 on the Change-o-Meter.

Today’s news on immigration is mainly a save-the-date notice for later this year. White House officials say Obama will address the topic next month in preparation for a policy fight sometime in the fall. As Obama indicated during the campaign, his plan will include means for undocumented immigrants to become legal citizens. The ‘Meter realizes immigration was a pillar of Obama’s candidacy and is an issue that needs to be addressed but wonders whether such a reckless expenditure of political bandwidth is wise if the administration hopes to accomplish anything outside economic recovery measures this year. It awards 15 points for jump-starting immigration reform and withholds 10 as collateral against the risk that overextension will tank Obama’s whole change portfolio.

Obama is expected to request about $83 billion in supplemental spending for the fiscal 2009 budget, mostly for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in an extra-budgetary measure that he has frequently panned Bush for using. Obama has something of an excuse: As PolitiFact notes, the current budget is a Bush leftover that did not provide adequate funding for the wars in the first place (though one may recall that large parts of that budget were passed after Obama took office). Still, this Bush-made-me-do-it excuse failed to register with at least a few anti-war Democrats in Congress, as the Wall Street Journal notes. The ‘Meter deducts five points for the whiff of Bush tactics.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the CIA plans to shut down the so-called “black sites” in foreign countries that were the offsetting for harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects. Obama announced the discontinuation of the secret prisons shortly after his inauguration, but the ‘Meter awards 10 points for another nail in their coffins. More important, the CIA will also no longer contract out interrogations, for which Obama gets another 15 points.

There’s a lot to cover, so we want to hear your thoughts on what the Change-o-Meter should be taking into account. No detail is too small or wonky. E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.