By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 15 – Passions flared and shouting erupted both on the House floor and in the House's public gallery Friday, repeatedly interrupting the closing 20-minute debate on the budget-cutting plan proposed by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis. But after threats of prosecution restored order, members made their final points and the House passed the Ryan plan on a largely party-line 235-193 vote.

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., explains his plan on the House floor Friday

In his closing remarks, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chair of the Republican Conference, emphasized a point many other Republicans echoed, saying “It's time to quit spending money we don't have.” House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., agreed in part, saying “everybody in this chamber agrees, we need to put in place a plan to reduce our deficit in a predictable, steady manner. The question throughout this debate has been not whether, but how we do that.” Then he charged that by “providing big tax breaks to the very wealthy and powerful special interests at the expense of the rest of America,” the Ryan plan simply pursues the Republicans' “same old ideological agenda.”

With his characteristic calming tone, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio., summed up the debate: “The American people understand that we can't continue to spend money that we don't have. Our national debt has now surpassed $14.2 trillion dollars and it's on a track to eclipse the entire size of our economy. And this massive debt that we're incurring hurts private sector job creation, eroding confidence, spreading uncertainty amongst employers big and small, discouraging private investment in our economy that is sorely needed in order for us to create jobs.” Calling federal debt “a moral threat to our country,” Boehner explained that the fiscal 2011 budget passed by Congress Thursday was a positive first step “that has allowed us to focus on cutting trillions of dollars, not just billions,” as the next step, the Ryan 2012 budget.

Boehner said the Ryan budget “will help job creation today, lift the crushing burden of debt that threatens our children's future, and preserve and protect programs like Medicare and Medicaid. And most importantly, the budget shows families and small businesses that we're serious about dealing with America's spending illness so that we can put our country on a path to prosperity.” Then Boehner turned to President Obama's request that Congress pass a “clean bill” to raise the federal debt ceiling without attaching any spending reduction requirements. Repeating the point he made to Obama in the White House Wednesday, Boehner forcefully insisted that “There will be no debt limit increase unless it is accompanied by serious spending cuts and real budget reforms” – a pledge which drew applause from Republicans.

The House vote on the Ryan budget triggered an immediate response from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. As the key figure in deciding how the Senate will deal with the House-passed Ryan budget, Reid issued his own pledge about the Ryan proposal: “The Republican plan to end Medicare and immediately raise prescription drug costs for seniors in order to pay for millionaire tax breaks will never pass the Senate.” He said “The fact that it passed the House shows just how far to the right the Tea Party has dragged the Republican Party.”

Voicing support for the White House's alternative approach to spending cuts, Reid explained that “In contrast to Republicans’ plan to end Medicare, Democrats support a responsible approach to reducing the deficit that doesn’t simply shift the burden onto seniors and the middle class, who did nothing to put us in the fiscal hole we are in today. As the President outlined this week, we can reduce the deficit by as much as $4 trillion by making targeted cuts in federal spending that protect seniors’ hard-earned benefits, and by asking millionaires and billionaires to contribute their fair share.”

Among House Republicans, 235 supported the budget resolution while four voted no – Reps. Walter Jones, N.C.; David McKinley, W.V.; Ron Paul, Texas; and Dennis Rehberg, Mont. Among Democrats, none voted for the Ryan plan while 189 voted against it. The four members not voting were: Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.; Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz.; Greg Meeks, D-N.Y.; and John Olver, D-Mass. For the official vote tally for the Ryan budget which passed 235-193, click HERE.

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