Hate Crimes Prevention Act , which expanded hate crime laws to cover crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation. In May , Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage , shortly after Vice President Joe Biden had also expressed support for the institution. Hodges , and Obama personally congratulated the plaintiff.
The Great Recession of caused a sharp decline in tax revenues in all cities and states. The response was to cut education budgets.
However, in terms of sponsoring innovation, Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan pursued K education reform through the Race to the Top grant program. In the competition points were awarded for allowing charter schools to multiply, for compensating teachers on a merit basis including student test scores, and for adopting higher educational standards. There were incentives for states to establish college and career-ready standards, which in practice meant adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiative that had been developed on a bipartisan basis by the National Governors Association , and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The criteria were not mandatory, they were incentives to improve opportunities to get a grant. Most states revised their laws accordingly, even though they realized it was unlikely they would when a highly competitive new grant. Race to the Top had strong bipartisan support, with centrist elements from both parties. It was opposed by the left wing of the Democratic Party, and by the right wing of the Republican Party, and criticized for centralizing too much power in Washington.
Complaints also came from middle-class families, who were annoyed at the increasing emphasis on teaching to the test, rather than encouraging teachers to show creativity and stimulating students' imagination. Obama also advocated for universal pre-kindergarten programs,  and two free years of community college for everyone. From the beginning of his presidency, Obama supported comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants illegally residing in the United States.
In the lame-duck session, Obama supported passage of the DREAM Act , which passed the House but failed to overcome a Senate filibuster in a vote in favor of the bill. A record high of , deportations occurred in , though the number of deportations fell during Obama's second term. The nation's immigrant population hit a record Energy production boomed during the Obama presidency. During Obama's presidency, the battle over the Keystone XL Pipeline became a major issue, with advocates arguing that it would contribute to economic growth and environmentalists arguing that its approval would contribute to global warming.
The Obama administration took a few steps to reform the criminal justice system at a time when many in both parties felt that the US had gone too far in incarcerating drug offenders,  and Obama was the first president since the s to preside over a reduction in the federal prison population. Department of Justice issued a directive to federal prosecutors in states with medical marijuana laws not to investigate or prosecute cases of marijuana use or production done in compliance with those laws.
During Obama's presidency, there was a sharp rise in opioid mortality. Many of the deaths — then and now — result from fentanyl consumption where an overdose is more likely than with heroin consumption. And many people died because they were not aware of this difference or thought that they would administer themselves heroin or a drug mixture but actually used pure fentanyl. Obama called for gun control measures in the aftermath of several mass shootings , but was unable to pass a major bill.
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In , Obama discussed reinstating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban , but did not make a strong push to pass it through Congress at that time. City of Chicago that the Second Amendment applies to the states in addition to the federal government.
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Obama signed into law two bills containing amendments reducing restrictions on gun owners, one which permitted guns to be transported in checked baggage on Amtrak trains  and another which allowed the carrying of loaded firearms in national parks located in states allowing concealed carry. Cybersecurity emerged as an important issue during Obama's presidency. In , the Obama administration established United States Cyber Command , an armed forces sub-unified command charged with defending the military against cyber attacks.
Brennan , were also hacked, leading to new fears about the confidentiality of emails. In his speeches as president, Obama did not make more overt references to race relations than his predecessors,   but according to one study, he implemented stronger policy action on behalf of African-Americans than any president since the Nixon era.
Following Obama's election, many pondered the existence of a "postracial America. To reduce tensions, Obama invited Gates and the police officer to the White House in what became known as the "Beer Summit". In February , Obama announced that he was cutting the program from the United States federal budget , describing it as "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation. In , Obama called on the United States to land a human on Mars by the s.
Obama took steps to promote various technologies and the technological prowess of the United States. The Obama administration inherited a war in Afghanistan , a war in Iraq , and a global " War on Terror ," all launched by Congress during the term of President Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
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Upon taking office, Obama called for a " new beginning " in relations between the Muslim world and the United States,   and he discontinued the use of the term "War on Terror" in favor of the term "Overseas Contingency Operation. During the presidential election , Obama strongly criticized the Iraq War ,  and Obama withdrew the vast majority of U. On taking office, Obama announced that U. Obama increased the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan during his first term before withdrawing most military personnel in his second term.
On taking office, Obama announced that the U. Though other areas of the world remained important to American foreign policy, Obama pursued a "pivot" to East Asia , focusing the U. On taking office, Obama called for a " reset " in relations with Russia , which had declined following the Russo-Georgian War. The relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu who held office for all but two months of Obama's presidency was notably icy, with many commenting on their mutual distaste for each other.
Mitchell as a special envoy to the Middle East to work towards a settlement of the Israeli—Palestinian conflict , but Mitchell made little progress before stepping down in During Obama's last months in office, his administration chose not to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution , which urged the end of Israeli settlement in the territories that Israel captured in the Six-Day War of The Obama administration argued that the abstention was consistent with long-standing American opposition to the expansion of settlements, while critics of the abstention argued that it abandoned a close U.
Like his predecessor, Obama pursued free trade agreements , in part due to the lack of progress at the Doha negotiations in lowering trade barriers worldwide. Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly supported the agreements, while Congressional Democrats cast a mix of votes. The Obama administration was criticized from the left for a lack of transparency in the negotiations, as well as the presence of corporate representatives who assisted in the drafting process. In , the Bush administration established the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to hold alleged " enemy combatants " in a manner that did not treat the detainees as conventional prisoners of war.
The Obama administration launched a successful operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden , the leader of al-Qaeda , a global Sunni Islamist militant organization responsible for the September 11 attacks and several other terrorist attacks. Meeting with his national security advisers over the course of the next six weeks, Obama rejected a plan to bomb the compound, and authorized a "surgical raid" to be conducted by United States Navy SEALs.
The operation took place on May 1, , resulting in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of papers and computer drives and disks from the compound. Bush and Bill Clinton ,  and from many countries around the world. Obama expanded the drone strike program begun by the Bush administration, and the Obama administration conducted drone strikes against targets in Yemen , Somalia , and, most prominently, Pakistan.
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As of , US drone strikes had killed eight American citizens, one of whom, Anwar al-Aulaqi , was specifically targeted. Starting in the spring of secret meetings were conducted between the United States and Cuba , with the meetings taking place in the neutral locations of Canada and Vatican City. Iran and the United States have had a poor relationship since the Iranian Revolution and the Iran hostage crisis , and tensions continued during Obama's presidency due to issues such as the Iranian nuclear program and Iran's alleged sponsorship of terrorism.
Bush ,  as well as the stated positions of most of Obama's rivals in the presidential campaign. After a sudden revolution in Tunisia in ,  protests occurred in almost every Arab state. The wave of demonstrations became known as the Arab Spring , and the handling of the Arab Spring played a major role in Obama's foreign policy.
Libya was strongly affected by the Arab Spring. Anti-government protests broke out in Benghazi , Libya, in February ,  and the Gaddafi government responded with military force. Obama authorized U. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Syria was one of the states most heavily affected by the Arab Spring, and by the second half of March , major anti-government protests were being held in Syria. The Obama administration inherited several government surveillance programs from the Bush administration, and Obama attempted to strike a balance between protecting civil liberties and tracking terrorist threats, but Obama's continuation of many programs disappointed many civil libertarians.
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Early in his presidential campaign , Obama stated that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House", but softened his stance after taking office. Obama promised that he would run the "most transparent" administration in US history, with mixed results. The Obama administration has been characterized as much more aggressive than the Bush and other previous administrations in their response to whistleblowing and leaks to the press,  prompting critics to describe the Obama administration's crackdown as a "war on whistleblowers.
Others prosecuted for leaking information include Shamai Leibowitz , a contract linguist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation ,  John Kiriakou , a former CIA analyst,  and Chelsea Manning , an intelligence analyst for the US Army whose trial received wide coverage. Attacking Obama relentlessly, emphasizing the stalled economy, and fueled by the anger of the Tea Party Movement , Republicans scored a landslide in the midterm elections , winning control of the House and gaining seats in the Senate.
Boehner pledged to repeal Obamacare and cut federal spending.
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Obama called the elections "humbling" and a "shellacking", arguing that the defeat came because not enough Americans had felt the effects of the economic recovery. On April 4, , Obama announced that he would seek re-election in the presidential election. Obama did not face any significant rivals for the Democratic nomination. Obama's Republican opponent in the general election, former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, advocated for lower taxes, spending cuts, an increase in defense spending, and a repeal of Obamacare which was ironically based on a Massachusetts healthcare plan developed under Romney.
Obama's second mid-term election turned into another wave election , as Republicans won control of the Senate and picked up several governorships. Republican control of the Senate gave the party the power to block Obama's executive and judicial nominees.