(Reuters) - President Barack Obama is expected on Wednesday to push for higher taxes for the rich and changes to government pension and healthcare plans as criticism swells over his leadership on cutting a bloated deficit.
Obama, accused of laying low on an issue that polls show will be a major factor in the 2012 presidential election, will explain his vision for tackling the long-term deficit and debt in a speech in Washington at 1:35 p.m.
He will try to regain control of the spending debate by drawing a sharp contrast with a Republican proposal unveiled last week to lower the deficit by $4.4 trillion over the next 10 years. That proposal calls for steep cuts in spending and lower taxes for businesses and individuals.
"This is an opportunity to use the bully pulpit to frame the choice rather than let the debate run away from them," said Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives' Budget Committee.
The White House, which also wants Congress to raise the country's borrowing limit before a $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is reached as early as mid-May, says the Republican deficit plan unfairly favors the rich over ordinary Americans.