Democratic legislation in the Senate to replace $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts would result in very modest deficit savings through the end of the budget year, most if not of all of them through higher taxes on millionaires.
Instead, officials say the bill would spread the savings out over a decade in a move sponsors say is designed to prevent damage to a shaky economic recovery.
The Democrats' approach to the latest episode of budget brinkmanship comes as the two political parties vie for public support in advance of across-the-board cuts due to kick in on Friday.
The Senate is expected to vote on Thursday on rival Democratic and Republican alternatives to replace the spending cuts, known in Washington-speak as a sequester. Both bills are expected to fail.