Sen. Scott Brown announced Monday that he would oppose a House-passed budget plan that includes controversial changes to Medicare.
The issue will show voters "why we need to keep the Senate Democrats in order to counter House Republicans. ... The Republicans tried to end Medicare, but a Democratic majority stopped it in the Senate. ... It's that simple," Schumer said.
The issue is already paying dividends for Democrats, he said, noting that the Medicare issue has helped boost the Democrat running in the special election in New York, despite the GOP tilt of the district.
"Senate Republicans clearly could not be more nervous," Schumer said. "Sen. Scott Brown backtracked. We think other Republicans are likely to follow."
Republicans want to force a vote on another alternative budget by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that cuts spending even deeper than the Ryan plan would, Schumer said. Toomey's plan does not include Ryan's Medicare proposal, but Schumer predicted that the gambit wouldn't work.
The public would know "which side put Medicare on the chopping block, which side stood up to defend it," he said.
Republicans pointed to the Democrats' decision not to offer a budget of their own. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he plans to force the chamber to vote on President Barack Obama's budget in an attempt to embarrass Democrats.
Republicans also ripped Democrats for playing pure politics.
Schumer "said himself that his decision to push for the vote has everything to do with the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] and nothing to do with fixing our debt, which is the sort of approach that got us into this mess in the first place," a Senate GOP aide said. "Americans want politicians to stop playing grab-ass with pollsters and start getting serious about the budget."
Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions said Monday that he will object to any unanimous consent request to adjourn for the Memorial Day recess unless Democrats bring forward their own budget plan.
"I'm going to require that we have a vote on it," the Alabama Republican said. "Let's vote to go home having not done the people's business," he added sarcastically.
Republicans argued that without an alternative of their own, Democrats were voting to let Medicare go bankrupt.
"The current plan on the other side from the president and Harry Reid and others is we are going to ration care and essentially this thing will go into bankruptcy. That's all we have heard, rationing and bankruptcy from the president and Harry Reid," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters Monday.
Schumer dismissed the Democrats' lack of a budget blueprint — saying that could come later after bipartisan talks with Vice President Joseph Biden conclude.
"The only way we are going to get a real budget is by Democrats and Republicans sitting down together," Schumer said.
The Biden negotiations are set to resume today, and Congressional aides said the group will finally begin to discuss Medicare and Medicaid.
"They are going to move on to trickier topics," an aide familiar with the negotiations said. "It doesn't mean they won't make progress. It just gets slower now."
Anna Palmer and David M. Drucker contributed to this report.