President Obama on Monday made an aggressive pitch for his $3-trillion deficit-reduction strategy, promising to veto any proposal that fails to raise revenues by asking wealthy Americans to "pay their fair share."
"We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks who are most vulnerable," Obama said.
Obama said his plan would seek $1 in new revenues for every $2 in cuts. At its core is a plan to raise $1.5 trillion in new revenues through an overhaul of the tax code.
Of that, $800 billion would come from the expiration of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for upper-income Americans; the other $700 billion consists of revenue increases achieved by closing loopholes, limiting deductions for those earning more than $250,000 a year and getting rid of tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
As part of any changes to tax law, Obama is calling on lawmakers to follow a principle the administration calls the Buffett rule: No one earning more than $1 million a year should be taxed at a lower rate than middle-income households.
Speaking in urgent tones from the Rose Garden at the White House, Obama rejected Republican arguments that his proposals amount to "class warfare," saying it comes down to "math."
"It is wrong that in the United States of America a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million," he said, adding that anyone who opposes that principle "should be called out."
"It comes down to this: We have to prioritize," he said. "Both parties agree that we need to reduce the deficit by the same amount, by $4 trillion. ... Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes or we're going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can't afford to do both."
Obama is presenting his recommendations to a congressional "super committee" that is considering a deficit-reduction package of its own. The 12-member committee, an outgrowth of the debt-ceiling negotiations over the summer, is charged with putting out a bill that will go to Congress for an up-or-down vote. The committee must complete its work by Nov. 23.
His plan for lopping $3 trillion from the deficit is on top of the approximately $1 trillion in spending cuts that he signed into law in August, after reaching a deal with Republican congressional leaders to lift the nation's debt ceiling.
On Monday, Republicans swiftly responded to the president's proposal with opposition.
"Veto threats, a massive tax hike, phantom savings and punting on entitlement reform is not a recipe for economic or job growth -- or even meaningful deficit reduction," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "The good news is that the joint committee is taking this issue far more seriously than the White House."
"Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership," House Speaker John Boehner added. "The joint select committee is engaged in serious work to tackle a serious problem. ... Unfortunately, the president has not made a serious contribution to its work today."