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Editorial: Obama has had success in last month

Slice it however your political proclivities mandate, but there is little doubt President Barack Obama had a very good run in December. He won all but one of his legislative priorities, and that one, the DREAM Act, was not high on his list and really never had a chance of passing the U.S. Senate.

The president won the big ones: a compromise extension of the Bush-era tax cuts; repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexual members of the armed services; overwhelming Senate ratification of a new START nuclear weapons treaty with Russia; and an aid package for 9/11 first responders who became ill from working in the ruins of the World Trade Center.

By any measure, it's an impressive list, made more impressive because it came in a relatively short lame-duck session of Congress. Well, the president's detractors will say, it was because of the lame-duck session that the president's priorities passed. If he'd waited for the new, more Republican Congress to be seated in January, he would have had far less success.

Maybe so. But the lame-duck Congress, in particular the Senate, is the same Congress that blocked Obama's priorities routinely. Republicans were reliably united against nearly everything the president wanted, so they were able to prevent the Senate from reaching the 60-vote threshold necessary to advance legislation.

In order for major legislation to clear the lame-duck Congress, the Senate's Republicans had to break ranks, which they did despite opposition from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The president's legislative victories are all the more impressive because they came after the November election in which the president's party, by his own words, took a shellacking. But post-election polls clearly showed Americans want the president and Congress to work together for the good of the nation. Apparently a number of Senate Republicans are either reading the polls or sincerely believe the legislation they supported is good for the nation.

Either way, the unexpected display of bipartisanship has helped the president. His latest job-approval rating rose to 46 percent. Congress' rating remains at a historic low of 13 percent. It remains to be seen whether the new Congress, which appears less likely to compromise with the president, can move that rating out of the cellar.