After spending the 2012 campaign painting rosy pictures of an improving economy, Democrats have shifted to dire warnings that the recovery is taking too long and Republicans are to blame.

The country’s economy grew beyond expectations in the second quarter, according to new figures released Wednesday, but  Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the 1.7 percent improvement was still too low. The Democratic lawmakers then laid into Republicans for refusing to stop the sequestration cuts that will slash defense and discretionary spending by more than $1 trillion over the next decade.

“Our economy should be taking off, creating millions of middle class jobs and reversing the declines in middle-class incomes,” Schumer said, adding that the budget cuts will rob the economy of 1.6 million jobs. “Instead, the sequester is an ankle weight on our economy that’s responsible for fewer jobs, slower growth and delayed economy.”

“We’re not even treading water,” he said. “The water is rising over our nostrils.”

Democrats are digging in against the scheduled cuts as they prepare for the fall's fiscal fights over increasing the country’s borrowing authority and funding the federal government. Their latest salvo, though, is in stark contrast to a year ago, when tepid, albeit positive, job growth numbers were lauded as proof that the economy was headed in the right direction under President Obama’s watch.

Republicans said they plan to use sequestration spending levels as the baseline for any budget negotiations.

Heading into Wednesday’s release of the second quarter figures from the Commerce Department, economists forecasted growth at 1.1 percent. Despite better-than-expected news, Democrats were not pleased.

“It’s just not good enough if we’re going to have middle class jobs, if we’re going to have a strong economy,” Stabenow said. “In past recessions, we’ve had much more rapid growth coming out of it and there is no question … that crazy sequester cuts are impacting our economy. It’s damaging middle class families and it’s costing us jobs.”