Inside the issues: Domestic Policies

CHICAGO But a lot of Americans are still worried about educating their kids, paying for health care, filling their gas tanks and keeping the terrorists out.

The price of gasoline is down in recent weeks. But the presidential nominees agree that long-term relief is only possible when U.S. dependency on foreign oil is reduced dramatically.

Republican Senator John McCain opposed offshore drilling in 2000, but now it's a cornerstone of his energy policy.

"We'll attack the problem on every front. We'll produce more energy at home. We will drill more wells offshore and we'll drill them now," he said.

Democratic Senator Barack Obama's opposed to most offshore drilling, arguing instead for investment in clean energy.

"Drilling is a stopgap measure, not a long-term solution, not even close," Obama said. "As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power."

In the days after 9/11, McCain voted for the Patriot Act and both candidates voted to reauthorize it in 2006. But Obama pushed for revisions that protect civil liberties. They both favored a shutdown of the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay. But they differ on whether to let detainees fight their cases in civil court. Obama says yes. McCain says no.

On healthcare, Obama mandates coverage for all children. And he would force large corporations that don't offer health insurance to pay into a national plan. Small business would be exempt.

"If you don't have health insurance, you're going to be able to buy the same kind of health insurance that Senator McCain and I enjoy as federal employees. Because there's a huge pool, we can drop the cost," Obama said.

McCain opposes any federally-mandated coverage. But he supports tax credits for health care, arguing that quality will improve when consumers have more choices and there's more competition.

"I want to give every American a $5,000, refundable tax credit they can take anywhere, across state lines. Why not? Don't we go across state lines when we purchase other things in America?" McCain said.

On education, Obama's been critical of "No Child Left Behind," which forces public schools to meet testing standards to receive federal funding. He wants to spend $10 billon a year on early childhood programs, teacher recruitment and other initiatives.

"Early childhood education, which closes the achievement gap, so that every child is prepared for school, every dollar we invest in that we end up getting huge benefits with improved reading scores, reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency rates," Obama said.

McCain is for "No Child Left Behind." But he wants the federal government to play a smaller role in public education and parents to have more choices with vouchers, home and charter schools and online learning,

"What is the advantage of being in a low-income area and sending your child to a failed school and that being your only choice? Choice and competition among schools is one of the key elements that's already been proven," McCain said.

Some of the hot-button issues that've flared up in past presidential campaigns are little more than footnotes in a year dominated by the economy and war. But it's worth mentioning that senator's McCain and Obama both voted in favor of President Bush's immigration reform bill, which failed in the House. Obama supports abortion rights and a ban on assault weapons. McCain opposes abortion and gun control. And they both oppose gay marriage.

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