The proposal drew an angry response from key Republicans, underscoring the considerable opposition to his plan on Capitol Hill as a special bipartisan committee on deficit reduction ramps up its work in coming weeks.
The sharp back-and-forth between Obama and the GOP on Monday also showed how little the political climate has changed since the bitter debate this summer that consumed the capital and left many Americans deeply disenchanted with Washington.
The special committee must find $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in savings by Nov. 23 or the federal budget will automatically be reduced by $1.2 trillion starting in 2013, a deep cut that would be split between defense and domestic spending.
In a Rose Garden address on Monday, the president urged lawmakers to find even greater savings. And he vowed to veto any approach that does not include new levies on the wealthy alongside any benefit cuts in Medicare, the health insurance program for the nation’s retirees. He proposed nearly $250 billion in Medicare savings, largely by reducing excessive payments.
“I will not support — I will not support — any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans,” Obama said. “We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable.”
Members of the 12-member “supercommittee” have resisted staking out firm public positions to leave themselves enough flexibility to reach agreement. But Republicans warned Monday that the president’s rhetoric was putting the panel’s work at risk.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), a member of the special committee, said Obama’s plan was “defined by political posturing.”
“We do not have time to waste on political games and pushing big tax increases that will only make our economy weaker for all Americans,” he said.
Another member, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), endorsed Obama’s proposal as a “common-sense approach.”
“He laid out the case for putting our fiscal house in order by making difficult cuts and also asking millionaires and billionaires to pay at least the same effective tax rate as many of those who work for them,” Van Hollen said.
The group is scheduled to hold a work session Tuesday and a public hearing Thursday on tax reform.
Some Democrats offered only modest support for Obama’s plan.
“The dialogue is always stronger when thoughtful, serious ideas are on the table,” said Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), a panel member. “We are all mindful of the historic responsibility of the committee and welcome input on how to create jobs and put our fiscal house in order in a balanced way.”