Ryan's dramatic five-minute speech on the floor came just hours after what many called a "productive" meeting between House Republicans and President Obama on the budget and other issues. Shortly after noon, House members launched a debate over a controversial rule outlining debate on the FY 2012 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. In order to begin the appropriations process, that rule would deem as passed Ryan's 2012 budget in order to generate spending levels for various departments that can be included in the bills.
Republicans said both parties have taken this step in the past to start the appropriations process. But the prospect of deeming passage of the Ryan budget had Democrats lining up on the floor Wednesday to fight the rule, in a session over which House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Boehner3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Republican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (R-Ohio) was presiding.
Ryan showed up midway through the debate and laid blame on Democrats for failing to have any productive ideas for reducing the deficit or saving Medicare.
"The reason we're doing what we are doing today is because our partners on the other side of the rotunda in the Senate didn't pass a budget," he said.
Ryan added that Republicans are deeming passage of the GOP budget "simply because of the fact that nobody else around here seems to be bothered with passing budgets. The president hasn't put out a plan to fix the problem, and the Senate for the second year in a row failed to even pass a budget."
On the healthcare debate, Ryan argued that the Democrats' healthcare law was far more destructive to Medicare than anything Republicans are proposing.
"Medicare as we know it is already gone," he said. "Our friends on the other side of the aisle, when they passed the Affordable Care Act, they stopped the Medicare status quo. It does two things: it raids Medicare and it rations Medicare."
Ryan said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) removes $500 billion from Medicare, and will soon put in place a board of 15 "unelectable, unaccountable bureaucrats" that will begin rationing Medicare services.
"What's worse is the president and the Senate still have yet to put out a plan to save Medicare to prevent it from going bankrupt," he added.
In reality, deeming passage of the Ryan budget is a way to set a framework around the appropriations process, and passing the rule would not actually make the Ryan budget the law of the land. As Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) pointed out, "This rule has no legal effect. This rule will not be presented to the president for signature and become the law of the land."
Still, several Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, argued that approving the rule puts that budget in place. "Voting for this rule is a vote to abolish Medicare," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.
House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) agreed with that analysis, and all but called Republicans liars when they talked about saving Medicare.
"This is indeed an open rule, in the sense that it's so open that if you vote for the rule, you're voting to end Medicare," Levin said. "And to come to this floor and say you're saving it when you're ending it, that kind of talk is a big lie."