While the president has a strong hand, he is overplaying it. Republicans have some leverage. They need to use it effectively.
• The president’s veto threat is a bluff. Without a new law, tax increases and spending cuts will likely increase unemployment to 9% and might trigger a new recession. Even if he could shift all the political blame for such a legislative failure onto congressional Republicans, Mr. Obama cannot afford to risk a new recession that would irreparably damage his second term. He can neither veto a budget-deal bill that Congress sends to him, nor can he allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to tie a bill up in the Senate. He can, however, try to bluff Republicans into giving away the store.
• The president’s proposal for more spending and taxation puts him to the left of many in his own party, and Democrats up for re-election are not lemmings looking to follow Sen. Patty Murray, who has welcomed a plunge over the fiscal cliff. Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Mary Landrieu oppose the president’s proposal to increase the estate tax. Sen. Chuck Schumer has defined “rich” at $1 million of income, much higher than the president’s $250,000.