CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., raised major questions during a Thursday morning Senate floor speech about budget plans backed by Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who Mitt Romney endorsed when he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Rockefeller said the Ryan budget would be "a monstrosity" for almost every American.
"When you read it," Rockefeller said, it "is nothing more than a diabolical blueprint for slashing services that help families, seniors, and children all across this country.
"I was proud the Senate voted against it, although it was equally discouraging that a majority of the House voted for it," Rockefeller said of votes from earlier this year.
Rockefeller focused on the plan's potential impacts on health care, particularly in West Virginia -- a state that has one of the nation's lowest median incomes and highest percentages of senior citizens.
"The unbalanced Ryan proposal guts programs for seniors, people who are disabled, children and families struggling to make ends meet, and then turning those cuts into $4 trillion worth of tax breaks for the very wealthiest Americans and large corporations."
The proposed Ryan budget would give the typical millionaire a "tidy little tax cut of $265,000 while undermining our economy," Rockefeller said.
On Thursday, however, the Associated Press reported that Ryan voted for a stopgap spending bill that avoids a government shutdown for at least six months but would cost at least $19 billion more than the budget he wrote earlier this year.
During his speech, Rockefeller singled out several specific issues with the Ryan plan that the House passed but the Senate defeated earlier this year:
• Medicare, which more than 50 million senior citizens depend on, would be turned into a privatized voucher program.
• Medicare expenditures would then be capped for senior citizens, regardless of their health problems and health needs, costing them an average of another $6,000 a year.
That would let "profit-seeking private companies decide on what to cover and what not to," Rockefeller said.
• The proposed plan undermines Medicaid "by turning it into a block grant program." Today, Medicaid is "a lifeline to 70 million Americans," including poor families and children.
• Proposed Medicaid changes would also undermine long-term care for seniors who need services from home-health-care nurses or who must live in nursing homes, which now costs $80,000 a year, or more.
• Nursing homes, which currently employ 1.8 million people, would be forced to cut services, turn away some senior patients or close their doors completely.