The Senate Wednesday votes on dueling spending proposals from each party, but the votes are merely symbolic, as the two sides are more than $50 billion apart in their proposed cuts, and reconciling that gap is unlikely.
The parties spent much of Tuesday engaged in a war of words over the timing of the votes. Democrats accused Republicans of not wanting to vote on their own bill -- the one the GOP-controlled House passed last month.
"They don't want to vote on their own plan," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid argued that the Republicans' proposal would slash hundreds of thousands of jobs -- 700,000 according to economist Mark Zandi.
"The truth is that the Republicans are so desperate to satisfy this little narrow base that they have, they're willing to sacrifice American jobs just for them," Reid said.
Across the aisle Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell disputed the argument that the GOP's bill would lead to job losses.
"We just don't buy the notion that by beginning to try to reduce government spending we're going to have an adverse impact, particularly on private spending, which has borne the brunt of this recession," McConnell said.
With government funding set to run out in less than two weeks, the parties are still more than $50 billion apart in the spending cuts they want to make. Republicans want to slash around $57 billion, while Democrats unveiled a plan to cut $4.7 billion.
Ultimately, both measures will go down to defeat in the Senate because of the chamber's 60-vote threshold. Neither Democrats, with a 53-seat majority, nor Republicans, with a 47-seat minority, can reach that threshold.
That means any progress on the budget debate will likely be made behind closed doors after the votes. Bipartisan negotiations involving congressional leaders and representatives from the Obama administration are not expected to resume until after the Senate votes.
If lawmakers cannot reach a long-term funding deal for the remainder of the fiscal year or a short-term measure to buy themselves more time, then the government would shut down for the first time in 15 years.
But Tuesday Reid said he was opposed to more short-term bills -- called continuing resolutions -- that only kick the can down the road for a few more weeks.
"We have to get the long-term done. Long-term is becoming short-term," he said. "We're down to about six months now. So I would hope that we can move forward on a long-term solution to the country's problems as it relates to this short-term budget problem."
But as evidenced by this week's contentious developments over votes that are little more than symbolic, bridging a $50 billion difference in proposed cuts could be one tall order.