Politics & Government

Clinton, Obama promise to end Bush-Cheney policies

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Tuesday laid out an ambitious agenda for the first 100 days of her presidency, if she's elected, that includes signing legislation that President Bush vetoed, seeking a moratorium on home foreclosures and beginning the process of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

Her rival Barack Obama spent Tuesday courting union workers and veterans, both important constituencies in Pennsylvania, which holds its Democratic primary next Tuesday.

Speaking at an American Society of Newspaper Editors luncheon in Washington, Clinton said that she'd ask Congress to eliminate some of Bush's tax cuts — replacing them with reductions targeting the middle class — and press Canada and Mexico to renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"In short, starting from Day One, the Bush-Cheney era will be over in name and practice," the New York senator said.

Clinton said she'd start with bills that Bush had vetoed, beginning with measures to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the use of embryonic stem cells for research.

"We will provide health insurance for millions more of our children as a down payment on achieving health care for all Americans with no exceptions," she said.

Clinton told the editors that she'd convene a meeting of mortgage lenders, banks, community organizations and regulators to negotiate an immediate freeze on foreclosures.

"So many Americans are hurting, the projection is that more than 2 million American families will be foreclosed on this year," she said.

She vowed to restore "fiscal sanity" to Washington by cutting taxes for middle-class families by $100 billion a year and ending tax breaks for oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies and Wall Street firms, saving $55 billion annually.

On climate change, Clinton said she'd convene a summit within her first 100 days to negotiate an international climate-change treaty to replace the Kyoto accords and include China, India and other rapidly developing greenhouse gas-emitting nations.

On Iraq, she vowed to convene a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Pentagon officials to begin drawing up plans to withdraw troops "responsibly and carefully" starting within 60 days of her inauguration.

She also promised to close the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which is housing terrorism suspects.

Obama, addressing the Building Trades National Legislative Conference in Washington, said, "Your voices will be heard." The Illinois senator promised that if he's elected he'll support union measures not backed by the Bush administration: the Employee Free Choice Act, giving unions more power to organize; federal government use of "project labor agreements"; and tax policies to discourage sending jobs overseas and reward the creation of U.S. jobs.

He said federal infrastructure projects should use union laborers who were paid prevailing wages and good benefits.

"It's time we had a president who didn't choke saying the word 'union,' " he told a crowd that roared in agreement. "It's not that hard: 'union.' See? It won't hurt you. We need to strengthen our unions, not weaken them, not tear them down. We need to build them up."

At a meeting with veterans and military families later in Washington, Pa., Obama repeated promises to improve mental-health care and brain-injury treatment for veterans.

He voiced veterans advocacy groups' criticism that the Bush administration has restricted definitions of casualties compared with past wars so that the numbers being reported are "tens of thousands" short. He said he'd change that so as "to honor the full measure of sacrifice of our troops, and to prepare for the cost of their care."

He also pledged to lift a ban on enrolling so-called "Priority 8" veterans who may earn slightly too much to qualify for Veterans Affairs health coverage.

His controversial comments last week implying that white gun owners and churchgoers are bitter about their lives don't appear to have hurt him in Pennsylvania. Quinnipiac University surveyed state residents Saturday and Sunday — the days that the controversy erupted — and found "no noticeable difference" in the Clinton-Obama match-up in the Keystone State.

Clinton holds a 50-44 percent lead over Obama in the survey, unchanged from last week.

(David Lightman contributed to this article.)

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