The New York Times reports:
President Obama will try to reshape Washington’s debate over the nation’s fiscal crisis on Wednesday with a speech outlining his approach to tackling the debt and the long-term health of entitlement programs, while navigating the tricky politics that will confront him as he seeks re-election.
He will call for reducing the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years or less, according to White House officials.
Mr. Obama has until now largely ceded the task of confronting the nation’s biggest fiscal challenges, first to his own debt commission and more recently to House Republicans, who last week proposed a plan that would remake Medicare and Medicaid while slashing $6 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.
But White House aides said Tuesday night that in the speech, the president will lay out his own four-part plan to deal with the growing deficit and the reality that the costs of entitlement programs are growing rapidly.
“The president’s proposal will build off of the deficit reduction measures included in his 2012 budget and will borrow from the recommendations of the bipartisan fiscal commission he created,” said a White House official, who offered guidance on background ahead of Mr. Obama’s speech.
It remains unclear how specific Mr. Obama will be on Wednesday when he gives the afternoon speech from George Washington University. During the year-long battle over health care, the president often gave speeches with broad policy guidelines but few details, content to let Congress work those out.
Politically, the speech carries many risks. Proposing a plan that cuts deeply in social programs to reduce the deficit could disappoint his Democratic supporters. But appearing to duck or dodge the fiscal challenges could turn off independent voters he needs to win in 2012.
Administration officials declined to be very specific but said Tuesday night that the four-part plan would include “keeping domestic spending low, finding additional savings in our defense budget, reducing excess health care spending while strengthening Medicare and Medicaid and tax reform that reduces spending in our tax code.”
Even before the speech, Republicans in Washington were already setting the stage for what political observers expect will be an even more spectacular clash of philosophies than the one that nearly caused a budget shutdown last week.
In a blunt warning to Mr. Obama, the House speaker, John A. Boehner, said Tuesday that Republican proposals “have set the bar” for deep cuts to spending. And he said that any attempt to raise taxes would be considered by the Republican majority in the House to be “unacceptable” and “a nonstarter.”
White House officials said the overriding philosophy behind the president’s proposals on Wednesday would be an effort to seek balance between the need for deficit reduction and the need to protect seniors, the middle class and workers.