The House passed Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's 2012 "Path to Prosperity" budget resolution in a divided vote Friday afternoon, slashing trillions from the budget over the next decade but angering Democrats with a controversial plan to transform Medicare.
The resolution passed 235-189, with no House Democrats supporting its passage. Just four House Republicans – Reps. Walter Jones, David McKinley, Ron Paul and Denny Rehberg – opposed the bill.
"I want to say congratulations to Paul and the members of the Budget Committee for a job well done," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters at a news conference leading up to the vote. "This budget will bring more certainty to the American people, [and] show the American people that we're serious about cutting spending, because we all know that cutting spending will reduce some of the uncertainty that's causing job creators to sit on their hands."
Rep. Ryan, who is from Wisconsin, unveiled the "Path to Prosperity" earlier this month. Democrats dubbed it the "Road to Ruin."
The plan would cut spending by $6.2 trillion over the next 10 years compared to spending levels in the president's 2012 budget request. Ryan's plan also reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion, but takes decades to balance the budget.
Republicans say the plan would save money by changing the Medicaid system, ending corporate welfare, privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and reducing discretionary spending below 2008 levels. And, over the long term, the GOP plan would transform the nation's Medicare program, changing it from a government-run system that pays seniors' health bills into a system where seniors buy insurance plans subsidized by the federal government.
Boehner said Ryan's budget proposal is "a serious step in the right direction."
"I'm just hopeful that the president will begin to get serious about the long-term fiscal crisis that our country is facing. It's serious," Boehner said. "It needs to be dealt with now, and we owe it to the American people, we owe it to our kids and grandkids to begin to cut spending and begin to transform these programs so that we can save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."
Democrats have decried Ryan's budget resolution as a proposal that would "change Medicare as we know it."
"It is an ethic for our country to keep our bedrock promise to our seniors, to keep our promise of Medicare, a benefit they have earned through a lifetime of work. House Republicans are voting to break that promise, jeopardizing the health and economic security of America's seniors," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Seniors know that the Republican budget means -- all of you here who want hands off your Medicare know "hands off" means end -- what they're trying to: end Medicare and shift health costs to seniors. No."
"We've always said we will judge every initiative that comes before us as to whether it creates jobs, as it reduces the deficit, strengthens the middle class and continues the economic growth of our economy," Pelosi added. "This budget does none of the above, as it ends Medicare. Hands off our Medicare!"
Last night, at a campaign fundraiser in Chicago, President Obama used some harsh rhetoric on Ryan, whom he has publicly praised in the past for offering serious attempts to address the deficit.
"Eliminating the health care bill would cost us $1 trillion dollars," President Obama said. "It would add $1 trillion to the deficit. So when Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he's just being America's accountant and trying to you know be responsible, this is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for. So it's not on the level. And we've got to keep on you know, keep on shining a light on that."
The House now adjourns for a two-week recess, and many members say they're anticipating a vibrant debate on the looming debt crisis in their districts.
"It's important for our members to go home and talk about the crisis that we face, and the fact that the changes being proposed would not affect one senior citizen in America -- not one -- because Paul's made it perfectly clear that anyone who's 55 years and older will not be affected by any of these changes. But if you're 54 and younger, those Americans understand if we don't make changes, the programs won't be there," Boehner said. ""I think it's pretty clear that if we don't make changes to these big programs, that they won't exist. And the fact is, is that the responsible plan put forward in the Path to Prosperity will, in fact, reform these programs and make sure that they're around for the long term. And understand: The greatest danger that America faces today is doing nothing."
In a clever procedural move by Democrats, Republicans were forced into some somersaults when a more conservative budget than Ryan's was offered in a substitute amendment by Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J. Since only a simple majority is needed to pass a bill, most of the House Democrats voted "present" and thus brought down the magic number needed for passage. The trick almost helped the bill pass -- and would have embarrassed the GOP leadership in the process -- but after numerous Republicans switched their votes, the amendment failed 119-136, with 172 Democrats voting present.
The bill is not expected to pass in the Senate.
"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," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. "The fact that it passed the House shows just how far to the right the Tea Party has dragged the Republican Party."
ABC News' Jonathan Karl and Jake Tapper contributed to this report