What to expect from President Barack Obama's second term on warming, defense, and more

WASHINGTON - During this presidential campaign, substance was sometimes difficult to find.

Attack ads dominated the airwaves, and speeches and debates offered scant specifics on policies and plans. Any promises came with the often-unspoken caveat that a divided Congress would determine their fate.

Even so, at least an outline of what President Barack Obama's priorities for his second term -- including many continuing from his first four years -- can be sketched.

Here, in capsule form, is some of what you can expect his administration will do -- or try to do-- on an array of issues.

GLOBAL WARMING:

-- Says climate change "is not a hoax," and ties severe drought, wildfires and record heat to global warming.

-- Advocate more use of "clean," renewal energy sources, and wants China and India to do the same.

-- Avoid pushing legislation such as the unsuccessful "cap and trade" measure to control carbon emissions, which died in Congress.

DEFENSE SPENDING:

-- Cut spending and manpower substantially, including by reducing the Army and Marine Corps by 100,000 troops over five years. The defense budget would fall from 4.5 percent of estimated gross domestic product to 2.9 percent over that time.

-- Shift resources from ships and tanks to Special Operations forces, cyber war and defense, and unmanned vehicles.

-- Reorient overseas basing to emphasize the Asia-Pacific region, with increased attention to China's military buildup.

SMALL BUSINESS:

-- Extend small-business tax credits that are slated to expire in 2013. Cut taxes for businesses that hire new workers or pay higher wages.

-- Permanently eliminate capital gains taxes on some small-business stock that is held for more than five years.

-- Promote Obama's health care reforms as a way for small businesses to find affordable health care plans and to enjoy tax credits that may cover some costs of providing health benefits to employees.

HOUSING:

-- Continue pushing reluctant federal housing regulators to forgive some of the debt of underwater homeowners.

-- Advocate for higher minimum down payments to lessen risks in mortgage lending.

-- Shut down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, while carving out a still-undefined role for government in helping people buy their first homes.

FEDERAL DEFICIT:

Intend to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years by:

-- Using half the savings from ending U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down a portion of the deficit.

-- Raising taxes on those who make more than $200,000 a year, and scaling back tax deductions.

-- Lowering spending on Medicare and Medicaid, but without reducing benefits.

SUPREME COURT:

-- Fill any vacancies with liberal justices in the mold of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and possibly swing the court balance to the left.

-- Vigorously defend, via the solicitor general, against challenges to same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act, abortion rights and environmental regulation.

-- Argue in favor of overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that allowed unfettered spending to influence elections.

(Reach Scripps Howard News Service news editor Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl@shns.com.)

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