The House has passed along party lines a GOP plan to cut $6 trillion from the federal budget.
The GOP proposal passed 235-193, with every Democrat voting "no."
The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion over 10 years from the budget submitted by President Barack Obama.
The measure includes reforming Medicare into a voucher-like system that would subsidize the purchase of private insurance.
"The biggest threat to Medicare is the status quo and the people defending it," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Democrats criticized the plan, citing official estimates showing the Republican plan would provide vouchers that would steadily drop in value.
Who's budget cutting plan will work? Watch CBN News' special Midday discussion here.
"They end the Medicare guarantee," top House Budget Committee member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said. "They force seniors to leave the Medicare program and go into the private insurance market where costs continue to rise day in and day out."
The GOP plan is not binding, but merely a resolution. Still, it will likely set the stage for the debate and decisions to come.
Meanwhile, new questions are being raised about how much the last-minute budget deal reached by Democrats and Republicans last Friday is actually cutting.
Some claim the measure delivers more than $38 billion in spending cuts.
"These are real cuts and signal to job creators that we're serious about stopping Washington's spending binge," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
But according the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill will only cut $352 million.
With 2011 budget now in the rear-view mirror, a new fiscal battle has already begun. President Obama and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are offering dramatically different visions for 2012.
The president's deficit reduction plan would cut $4 trillion over 12 years, targeting $3 trillion in spending and $1 trillion by raising taxes.
Ryan's plan would cut $4.3 trillion over 10 years through major Medicare reform and keeping tax cuts for high income earners.
"We're going to have to make tough choices and the sooner the better because our children will have to make tougher choices," Ryan said.
The president's budget address Wednesday drew the nation's attention once again to the urgency of the issue - and the fact that this debate is not only about the budget, but about the size and role of government in society.