POTUS to throw down the gauntlet on revenue

President Obama will present his debt-reduction plan in about a half-hour, and by all indications, it’s going to be a pretty ambitious, progressive approach. I’ll explore the plan in more detail once it’s released, but in the meantime, there’s one position in particular that’s worth pausing to appreciate.

President Barack Obama will veto a comprehensive deficit reduction package if it includes cuts to entitlement program benefits but no tax hikes on the wealthy or well-to-do corporations, senior advisers said on Sunday.

The veto threat is an addendum of sorts to a $3 trillion-plus set of deficit reduction proposals that the White House will make to the congressional super committee tasked with comprehensive deficit reduction. But if administration officials are to be believed, it is now a principle by which the committee must act and it raises the specter of gridlock. Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that tax hikes should be off the table.

“[W]hat the president is saying is he is not doing [beneficiary reforms] if the Republicans are unwilling to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share,” explained a senior administration official. “What they can’t do is send something to us with the things we propose and without the stuff on the revenue side because we will veto that.”

By all accounts, the veto threat was explicit. This isn’t a White House asking Congress to balance revenue and entitlement cuts; this isn’t a White House urging Congress to balance revenue and entitlement cuts; this isn’t a White House hoping Congress will balance revenue and entitlement cuts. This is the president throwing down a gauntlet: if Republicans want to make entitlements “reforms” that affect benefits, they’re going to have to accept some tax increases on the wealthy. If seniors are going to be asked to make some sacrifices, the wealthy are going to be asked to do the same.

Period. Full stop.

President Obama and his team are generally reluctant to throw around veto threats precisely because they don’t like to close doors to potential areas of compromise down the road. But that’s what makes this all the more striking: Republicans are generally obsessed with establishing the terms of the debate before the process even begins. Today, it’s the Obama White House deciding it’s time to turn the tables.

I sure hope the president’s detractors on the left are watching this: he’s doing what they’ve long urged him to do.