Ryan on Dem budget: 'Vatican is not the only place blowing smoke'

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday defended his budget as "an end to brinksmanship" and a moral document for the country's future in a major speech to conservatives that provided few clues about his 2016 plans. 

"I am proud of our budget because it's changed the conversation. Today we're not talking about ‘cliffs’ or ‘ceilings’ or ‘sequesters,’ we're talking about solutions, and that's how it should be," Ryan said to cheers during his keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

The crowd gave Ryan a rousing ovation upon his entrance and exit, and he drew laughs with a sharp attack on the Senate Democrats' budget. That plan, he said, shows the "Vatican is not the only place blowing smoke this week."

Most of Ryan’s speech was focused on his budget plan, indicating that the congressman is for now focused more on the battles in Congress than positioning himself for a potential presidential run in 2016.

Two possible rivals to Ryan for the GOP nomination — Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — addressed the conservative conference on Thursday. They offered starkly different visions of the Republican Party's future with speeches that seemed designed to play to the crowd.

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and the 2012 vice presidential nominee, took a different tack on Friday, and stuck to the policy focus that has become his calling card.

He argued the competing budgets that were released by the parties this week show that Democrats "are a party of shared hardship,” while Republicans are "a party of equal opportunity."

He gave a full-throated defense of his plan to balance the budget in 10 years, arguing that aggressive action is needed to save the country from financial ruin.

"We're not balancing the budget as an accounting exercise. We're not just trying to make the numbers add up. We are trying to improve people's lives. Our debt is a threat to this country. We have to tackle this problem before it tackles us."

"A debt crisis would be more than an economic event, it would be a moral failure," he said. "A budget isn't just a list of numbers, it's an expression of our governing philosophy."