Republican officials said had disclosed on Tuesday that Ryan had decided against accelerating plans for a highly controversial overhaul of Medicare, the program that provides health care for people aged 65 and older. Several members of the rank and file have said in recent days Ryan was considering a budget that would implement far-reaching changes beginning in less than a decade.
The Republican proposal would give future retirees a choice between the existing program and one that provides beneficiaries a voucher for their care. In its previous forms, it also capped the overall cost of the program.
Republicans say their approach would help ensure the survival of Medicare for future retirees.
Democrats say it would end the guarantee of health care coverage for seniors that has existed since the 1960s by imposing steadily higher costs on beneficiaries.
Ryan's suggestion to accelerate the overhaul drew objections from some Republicans because it would have meant reversing a pledge the party has made to leave Medicare generally unchanged for anyone currently aged 55 and older.
The switch had few if any supporters at a closed-door leadership meeting earlier in the week, according to Republicans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the session.
One lawmaker not at the session, Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, told reporters on Tuesday there was concern among some Republicans that incumbents and candidates in swing seats could be harmed in the 2014 elections. "You've told people you'd be doing one thing" and then changing the pledge, he said.
Democrats are poised to attack Republicans over their plans regardless.
Even before reports first surfaced of a possible change in the Republican timetable, Reid told reporters, "Republicans plan to make more extreme cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, education, medical research. They are in an untenable position."