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FACTBOX: Obama, McCain differ on legal issues
July 21, 2008 / 4:15 PM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX: Obama, McCain differ on legal issues

(Reuters) - Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are often at odds or hold differing opinions on legal issues like the death penalty, immigration enforcement, the Supreme Court, wiretapping and civil rights.

Following are positions that Obama, a Democratic senator from Illinois, and Republican rival McCain, an Arizona senator, have taken during the presidential campaign.


* Death penalty. Obama said capital punishment should be reserved for “only the most heinous crimes.” He disagreed with what he called a “blanket” Supreme Court decision striking down the death penalty for child rape. He expressed support for the death penalty for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

* Immigration enforcement. Supports a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants and an increase in border patrol agents. He has said more high-tech border controls could minimize the need for border fencing to prevent illegal crossings. Supports citizenship for immigrants who pay a fine and learn English, then await their turn in the regular naturalization process.

* Supreme Court. Praises the court’s more liberal members like Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter. As a senator, he voted against the confirmation of President George W. Bush’s two appointees -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. “I want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through,” he said.

* Wiretapping. Obama switched positions to vote in favor of legislation that gave legal immunity to telephone companies that cooperated with Bush’s program of warrantless wiretapping. Companies including Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc have been sued over their involvement. The provision was part of a larger bill expanding federal wiretap powers in foreign intelligence investigations.

* Civil rights. Would work to overturn Supreme Court ruling limiting the ability of women and racial minorities to challenge pay discrimination. Supports stricter laws against hate crimes and expanding the laws to cover gays and lesbians. Opposes a California measure that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. Would end sentencing disparities between crimes involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine, which critics say have an unfair impact on blacks.


* Death penalty. Strongly criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing the death penalty for child rape, calling it “an assault on law enforcement efforts to punish these heinous felons for the most despicable crime.” Has generally supported the use of the death penalty.

* Immigration enforcement. Initially supported a temporary guest-worker program for illegal immigrants, but has subsequently shifted his position to emphasize border security first.

* Supreme Court. Promises to nominate jurists in the mold of Roberts and Alito, Bush’s conservative appointees who have helped shift the court to the right on issues like abortion, race and business cases. “My nominees will understand there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power,” McCain said.

* Wiretapping. Supported the administration’s position on the legislation, but was absent for the final vote.

* Civil rights. Endorsed a measure that would alter the California constitution and would override the state top court’s ruling that backed same-sex weddings. Opposed federal legislation that would make it easier to sue for pay discrimination. McCain says he had been wrong to vote against a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., the late civil rights leader.

Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen and James Vicini, Editing by David Wiessler

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