House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) started the debate shortly after 4 p.m. by urging support for his budget plan. The GOP has played up Ryan's plan as one that slows the rate of growth in government spending, lowers taxes and balances the budget after 10 years.
"Why do we balance the budget? Because we don't want our children to be drowning in debt. We want to make sure that this sea of red ink that the CBO is telling us is coming, we pay off our debt and give our kids a debt-free nation."
As he has done for the last several days, Ryan cast his budget as more responsible than the plans proposed by Democrats, which would raise trillions more in taxes and spend trillions more in expanded federal programs. And he repeatedly rejected Democratic complaints that his budget cuts spending.
"For all the predictions of doom and gloom, and how evil and terrible and horrible our budget is, it increases spending every year by 3.4 percent a year, instead of 5 percent a year," he said. "The difference is, we balance the budget."
But Democrats were having none of it, and repeatedly charged that Ryan's budget would cut various federal programs upon which vulnerable populations rely.
"I want people to behold the plunder of suckling babes, the young, elderly, the infirm, women and communities of color by $810 billion cuts in Medicaid and $135 billion in SNAP," Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) said, referring to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "It is not humorous to me."
Comments like that, and repeated claims that Ryan's plan is an "austerity budget," prompted Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) to accuse Democrats of overstating their position.
"I tell you, there's been enough hyperbole in this room today, I should have brought my boots," Ribble said.
Other Republicans defended Ryan by saying Republicans care about people who need help, and that they are trying to cut the deficit before the U.S. enters a debt crisis that will hurt everybody.
"Republicans care about seniors staring at devastating reductions in Medicare under current law," Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said. "Republicans care about workers and middle-class folks fighting to make ends meet with increased gas prices and increased food prices and on and on."
Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) started the debate by implying that Ryan's budget should be shelved because Republicans ran on it in the last election, and failed to win the White House with it.
"The American people rejected the kind of uncompromising, lopsided approach that we see once again presented here in the House," Van Hollen said. "The same thing we've seen for the last three years, as if we hadn't even had a debate last fall."
Van Hollen and others added that by spending less than the Democratic proposals, the GOP budget would hurt job creation. "Next year, the difference between our plan and our colleagues plan is 2 million more jobs under our budget proposal," he said.
They also blasted Ryan's budget for calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthcare law, while at the same time keeping some of the tax increases in that bill to help make the budget balance. Several reiterated the claim that Ryan's budget would "end Medicare as we know it," a charge that got a rise out of Ryan.
"I got news for you: Obamacare ended Medicare as we know it," Ryan said. "What our budget does, is it takes those savings from Medicare and it makes sure it stays in Medicare."
Ryan closed the debate by saying his budget helps reduce the federal government's footprint and gives states needed flexibility to manage their own affairs.
"Washington is arrogant," he said. "There is an arrogance here in the federal government. It's an arrogance that says, we know how to run things better in Washington. We should run everything here.
"We reject that."
The House meets Wednesday to start considering five alternatives to Ryan's plan. These alternative are from the Progressive Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Democratic Caucus, and the Republican Study Committee; a fifth plan reflecting the pending Senate budget will also be considered.