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House passes GOP budget with no Dem support

Paul Ryan, budget
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., holds up a copy of his budget plan entitled "The Path to Prosperity," Tuesday, March 20, 2012, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Updated at 4:05 p.m. ET

The Republican-led House of Representatives on Thursday passed a conservative, $3.5 trillion budget bill that has no chance of becoming law but that draws a clear line in the sand between Republican and Democratic goals.

By a partisan vote of 228 to 191, the House passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget proposal, which calls for steep spending limits and dramatic changes to Medicare. Ten Republicans voted against the bill, and no Democrats voted for it.

"People in this country are looking, they are desperate to see a strong signal from Washington that we are prepared to make the tough decisions necessary to address our fiscal crisis," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on the House floor.

The Republican budget calls for $1.028 trillion in discretionary spending in 2013 -- below the $1.047 trillion spending cap Democrats and Republicans agreed to in a debt deal last August. It would also reshape Medicare starting in 2023, giving seniors subsidies to purchase either private insurance or traditional, government-run insurance on an exchange. Ryan's proposed budget takes a number of other dramatic steps, such as creating just two income tax brackets at 10 and 25 percent.

At an event in Washington Thursday morning, Ryan said his budget reflects the concern that the credit markets could "turn on us," interest rates could spike and the United States' fiscal problems could spin out of control sooner rather than later.

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"I personally am banking on two years before this thing gets ugly," he said. "I want to show at least one half of our political system is getting serious about this [and] not punting to some commission some backroom deal negotiation."

The budget has no chance of passage in the Democratic-led Senate, and President Obama would almost certainly reject it. Democrats have slammed the bill as contrary to American values, charging that Ryan's Medicare plan would drive seniors "to the poorhouse."

At the same event with Ryan on Thursday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, slammed the Ryan budget for its focus on cutting spending. As an example, he pointed to the significant cuts to transportation in Ryan's plan.

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"We have 17 percent unemployment in the construction industry," Van Hollen said. "It seems to me a no brainer that we would make those important investments... [Democrats] believe we need to focus on jobs and getting the economy moving as we put in place a long term deficit plan."

Ryan said his budget focused on cutting spending rather than raising revenue because "spending's the problem." If government spending continues to grow, he said, "You'll end up shutting down the American dream, the American economy."

Before passing the Ryan plan, the House voted down a more conservative budget, as well as a Democratic budget. The Democratic plan would have called for more modest savings than the Ryan plan while bringing in more taxes from oil and gas companies and American families earning more than $250,000. It would have added transportation and education spending.

On Wednesday evening, the House voted 414 to zero to reject President Obama's 2013 budget, with Democrats accusing Republican leadership of holding the vote to politically embarrass the president and his party.

Van Hollen said today that Congress should be able to actually reach agreement on discretionary parts of the budget this year, but that debates over larger issues -- like tax reform -- amount to purely political debates in this election year.

"Those are issues that are going to be dealt with in the campaign," he said, adding that he's hoping Congress can reach a compromise after the November election.