Obama's to-do list
President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to reverse or sharply modify many of the Bush administration's policies. Based on his campaign promises, here are some key areas where changes are expected.
November 6, 2008
Obama pledges to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. But when and how he extricates troops from Iraq may depend on a security pact with Iraqi lawmakers, who are pressing to have all US forces out of the cities by next summer, and out of the country by the end of 2011. In Afghanistan, Obama has said he would add about 7,000 troops to the US force of 31,000. Pentagon officials are poised to more than double that increase - saying they need 15,000 to 20,000 more troops in Afghanistan.
Obama will inherit foreign policy challenges involving Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He has said he would place a premium on diplomacy over the use of force to solve disputes, and his stated willingness to talk with leaders like those in Iran, Syria and North Korea, may result in increased diplomatic activity in areas including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Justice Department will reexamine all surveillance, interrogation, and detainee policies to see whether any should be changed. Obama has said he wants to close the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, meaning he must decide whether terror suspects held there now should face military or civilian trials if they are moved to US jails. Obama advisers say he may review the department's newly approved guidelines that could let the FBI investigate Americans in national security cases without evidence of a crime, based in part on their ethnicity or religion.
He has called for hiring 50,000 new police officers nationwide. The administration is likely to urge Congress to expand federal hate crime laws to include protections for people targeted because of their gender, sexual orientation, or disabilities. Obama says he wants to eliminate the harsher sentencing guidelines for people convicted of crack cocaine crimes in relation to powder cocaine.
Obama's most immediate economic problem will be dealing with the nation's financial crisis and deciding how to implement the $700 billion rescue program Congress passed last month. Obama has proposed a 90-day moratorium on home foreclosures by companies getting assistance from the bailout, and wants to temporarily suspend rules that impose tax penalties on early withdrawals from 401(k) retirement plans to allow cash-strapped families to tap these funds. Obama supports a second stimulus bill to boost the economy.
Obama promises a dramatic shift toward developing alternative energy, increasing support for research into cellulosic ethanol, wind turbines, solar technology, and more fuel-efficient cars. Obama has said he wants to spend $15 billion a year to spur alternative energy and create jobs.
On global warming, he has said he will overturn a Bush decision forbidding California from setting limits on greenhouse gases from vehicle tailpipes. He wants to reduce the carbon in gasoline by 10 percent by 2020.
Obama has pledged to overhaul President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law, which he says emphasizes annual test scores in reading and math too heavily at the expense of subjects such as music and art and is too punitive toward struggling schools. Obama would help students pay for college with $4,000 tax credits in exchange for community service, though the estimated $19 billion cost is a hurdle. Obama has also said he likes the controversial idea of tying teachers' pay raises to student performance, but only if teachers negotiate the arrangement and it's not based solely on test scores.
Obama wants the government to help millions of lower-income people buy health insurance through greater use of government subsidies, an approach the Bush administration has opposed. The State Children's Health Insurance Program expires soon, and many analysts see its reauthorization as a way for Obama to secure an easy and early victory on healthcare.
Obama has said he would add more personnel, infrastructure, and technology to the border regions and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, which is what the Bush administration is currently doing. Obama also said he would bring the 12 million people who are currently in the country "out of the shadows," fine them, make them pay taxes, and get them to the back of the line to become US citizens.
SOURCE: Associated Press
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