WASHINGTON – A Republican tour warning of impending military cuts is hitting another presidential battleground state, Nevada.
Three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — plan to travel to Nellis Air Force Base on Monday and hold a town hall in North Las Vegas to discuss the impact of the cuts. Their offices planned to announce the trip on Friday.
"President Obama's own secretary of defense called the looming defense cuts under budget sequestration 'devastating,' likening them to 'shooting ourselves in the head,' and yet to date, Congress and the Obama administration have done nothing to stop them from going into effect," the senators said in a statement.
Last week, the three lawmakers traveled to the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire to sound a similar warning.
The tour is designed to increase political pressure on Obama and Congress to avert the automatic, across-the-board cuts of $110 billion to defense and domestic programs on Jan. 2. The Nevada stop also raises the political stakes for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The GOP lawmakers have invited Reid and Nevada's other senator, Republican Dean Heller, to attend the town hall.
Reid and other Democrats argue that Republicans easily could spare the military from the reductions in projected spending if they agree to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
"By refusing to replace cuts with revenues, Republicans are putting millionaires ahead of the middle class and the military," Reid has said.
Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to the reductions last August as part of a deficit-cutting agreement. A special bipartisan congressional committee was tasked with producing a plan to cut spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years, or automatic cuts would kick in. The panel failed to reach a consensus and the countdown to the automatic cuts, known as sequester, began.
Graham said in a recent interview that Republicans are partly responsible.
"The failure of the supercommittee had to be at least anticipated, and the penalty to put the military at risk, devastating the finest military in our nation's history, is so out of sync with the party of Ronald Reagan. It's disturbing," he said. "We share the blame for this, but at the end of the day we have to fix it."
Groups of senators have discussed possible alternatives, but critical players aren't involved in the negotiations. A solution is unlikely before the November elections, leaving the issue to a lame-duck congressional session later this year.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office issued a new estimate that the potential sequester would require a $94 billion cut from day-to-day agency budgets funded through appropriations bills. That's a modest $4 billion cut from its most recent estimate. More details are due when the CBO releases its new budget and deficit estimates later this month.