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."
Wednesday speaking at the South Carolina National Guard armory in Columbia, Graham warned of the sequestration. "This will be a death blow to our ability to defend ourselves," he said.
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.
Start of War: Oct. 7, 2001
<em>American soldiers hide behind a barricade during an explosion, prior to fighting with Taliban forces November 26, 2001 at the fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)</em>
Number of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: 88,000
<em>US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed from the USS Bataan's Amphibious Ready Group arrive December 14, 2001 at an undisclosed location with field gear and weapons. (Photo by Johnny Bivera/Getty Images)</em>
Number of Troops at War's Peak
<em>U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield 13 December, 2001. (DAVE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the war's peak: About 101,000 in 2010. Allies provided about 40,000.
<em>U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Withdrawal plans: 23,000 U.S. troops expected to come home by the end of the summer, leaving about 68,000 in Afghanistan. Most U.S. troops expected to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, though the U.S. is expected to maintain a sizeable force of military trainers and a civilian diplomatic corps.
Number of U.S. Casualties
<em>American flags, each one representing the 4,454 American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, move in the breeze at The Christ Congregational United Church March 17, 2008 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. casualties: At least 1,828 members of the U.S. military killed as of Tuesday, according to an Associated Press count. According to the Defense Department, 15,786 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action.
Afghan Civilian Casualties
<em>Asan Bibi, 9, sits on a bench as burn cream is applied to her at Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. She, her sister and mother were badly burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Afghan civilian casualties: According to the United Nations, 11,864 civilians were killed in the conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began reporting statistics, and the end of 2011.
Cost of the War
<em>An Iraqi man counts money behind a pile of American dollars in his currency exchange bureau in Baghdad on April 11, 2012. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Cost of the war: $443 billion from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Number of Times Obama Has Visited Afghanistan
<em>US President Barack Obama speaks to troops during a visit to Bagram Air Field on May 1, 2012 in Afghanistan. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) </em><br><br> Number of times Obama has visited Afghanistan: 3 as president, including Tuesday, and 1 as a presidential candidate.