Where Obama stands on the issues

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Associated Press

Posted on November 7, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 7 at 12:32 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at where President Barack Obama stands on some of the issues that the country will face in his second term.

Abortion and birth control: Supports access to abortion. Health care law requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans, including access to morning-after pill, which does not terminate a pregnancy but which some religious conservatives consider tantamount to an abortion pill. Supported requiring girls 16 and under to get a prescription for the morning-after pill, available without a prescription for older women.

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Debt: Failed by wide margin in pledge to cut the deficit "we inherited" by half by end of first term. The deficit when he took office was $1.2 trillion, and the $800 billion stimulus bill Obama signed soon afterward increased the shortfall to more than $1.4 trillion. The deficit for the recently completed 2012 budget year registered at $1.2 trillion, marking the fourth consecutive year of trillion-dollar-plus red ink. Now promises to cut projected deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, a goal that would require Congress to raise the capital gains tax, boost taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year and impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes above $1 million. The target also assumes a reduction in the amount of interest the government must pay on its debt and incorporates cuts already signed into law. Nation's debt surpassed $16 trillion this year. Federal spending is estimated at 23.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, up from about 20 percent in the previous administration, and is forecast to decline to 21.8 percent by 2016. Reached agreement with congressional Republicans for military spending cuts.

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Economy: Term marked by a deep recession that began in previous administration and officially ended within six months, and gradual recovery with persistently high jobless rates of above 8 percent until the last two months of the campaign. Mixed jobs report for October showed unemployment rising to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September, but strong hiring as more people started looking for work. Obama responded to the recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan that nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated cut the unemployment rate by up to 1.8 percentage points. Continued implementation of Wall Street and auto industry bailouts begun under George W. Bush. Proposes tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers producing domestically or repatriating jobs from abroad and tax penalties for U.S. companies outsourcing jobs. Won approval of South Korea, Panama and Colombia free-trade pacts begun under previous administration, completing the biggest round of trade liberalization since the North American Free Trade Agreement and other pacts went into effect in the 1990s.

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Education: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law with their agreement to improve how they prepare and evaluate students. "Race to the Top" grant competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports. Won approval for a college tuition tax credit worth up to $10,000 over four years and more money for Pell Grants for low-income college students. Wants Congress to agree to reduce federal aid to colleges that go too far in raising tuition. Average tuition at four-year public colleges surged 26 percent in his term, by $1,800 to $8,655, as states cut aid, but federal grants and tax credits sheltered students from most of the increase, leaving them paying only $570 more.

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Energy and environment: Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but U.S. produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003 and all forms of energy production have increased under Obama. Approved drilling plan in Arctic Ocean opposed by environmentalists. Proposes Congress give oil market regulators more power to control price manipulation by speculators and stiffer fines for doing so. Sets goal of cutting oil imports in half by 2020.

Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards for automobiles that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. The rules on mercury could force dozens of older coal-fired plants to shut or spend billions to upgrade. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source.

Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions. Shelved plan to toughen health standards on lung-damaging smog. Rejected Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada but supports fast-track approval of a segment of it. Proposes ending subsidies to oil industry but has failed to persuade Congress to do so.

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Foreign policy: Opposes a near-term military strike on Iran, either by the U.S. or by Israel, to sabotage nuclear facilities that could be misused to produce a nuclear weapon. Says the U.S. will never tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran but negotiation and pressure through sanctions are the right way to prevent that outcome. Reserves the right to one day conclude that only a military strike can stop Iran from getting the bomb. Declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition, instead seeks to build international consensus toward the goal of persuading President Bashar Assad to leave and to press Russia and China to stop shielding his government from international sanctions. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and has pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on the land borders established after the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Signed law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. The law affirms U.S. support for negotiating the establishment of a Palestinian state, reflecting a U.S. bipartisan consensus. Opposes citing China as a currency manipulator, which could lead to broad trade sanctions, instead pressing the matter through diplomacy and aggressively bringing unfair-trade cases against China to the World Trade Organization.

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Gay rights: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. Opposed that recognition in 2008 presidential campaign — and in 2004 Senate campaign — while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay service members. Has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. Administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books. Directed government to require all hospitals that get Medicare and Medicaid financing to grant visitation privileges to gay and lesbian partners of patients. But has declined to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees, holding out instead for congressional action to extend such protection to workers in all sectors. In 1996 Illinois state Senate campaign, stated: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages," a position he later abandoned at the federal level and now embraces again.

"I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married."

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Guns: Has not pushed for gun control measures as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors "robust steps, within existing law" to address gun issues, White House says. Voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. Has not swung behind longshot Democratic bill, introduced after the Colorado movie theater shooting in July, to let only licensed dealers sell ammunition, require police to be notified after any sale of more than 1,000 rounds to an unlicensed person and require buyers who aren't licensed dealers to show a photo ID. Backed tougher gun control as Illinois and U.S. senator, including proposals to renew the assault-weapons ban and require background checks for buyers at gun shows.

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Health care: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law's mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance. Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits for middle-income people will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets and small business gets help for offering insurance. Millions of low-income uninsured are to be reached through expansion of Medicaid with hefty subsidies to states, but Supreme Court limited federal power to penalize states that want to opt out of the expansion. Law's biggest changes start in 2014. "Nobody is going to go broke just because they get sick. And Americans will no longer be denied or dropped by their insurance companies just when they need care the most. That's what change is."

Health care law improves Medicare benefits, adding better coverage for seniors with high prescription costs as well as removing co-pays for a set of preventive benefits. It also cuts Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers by more than $700 billion over a decade. Those cuts are being used to provide health insurance to more working-age Americans, and the government also counts them as extending the life of the Medicare trust fund. Any future deficit-reduction deal, though, is likely to increase costs for middle-class and upper-income Medicare recipients, and Obama has indicated a willingness to consider increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

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Immigration: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply, a step that could benefit 800,000 to 1.4 million. "It's a temporary measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while offering some justice to these young people." Took the step after failing to deliver on a promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he considers that a second-term priority. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama, nearly 400,000 in each of the last three years.

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Social Security: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security's long-term financial problems. During budget negotiations in 2011, proposed adopting a new measurement of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.

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Taxes: Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. Supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all. Wants to let the top tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts for families and business, some temporary.

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Terrorism: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden, set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended late in George W. Bush's presidency. Largely carried forward Bush's key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Also has continued with military commissions instead of civilian courts for detainees and invocation of state secrets privilege in court. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen. The deadly attack by militants on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September raised questions that persist about the quality of U.S. intelligence and about why requests for added security there were denied before the assault.

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War: Ended the Iraq war he had opposed and inherited, increased the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. Approved use of U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple Moammar Gadhafi's government. With decade of wars ending, major reductions coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut military spending over next decade.

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Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.

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