(AP) A trio of Republican senators is sounding the alarm about billions in looming military budget cuts on tap for January, stopping their tour Monday at a Nevada Air Force base and the city of North Las Vegas.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte are visiting Nellis Air Force Base before taking their "Preserving America's Strength" town hall to a nearby community college Monday afternoon, condemning a planned budget sequester that would impose $110 billion in federal spending cuts Jan. 2.
"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.
Sequestration is a series of automatic, across-the-board federal cuts that will take effect if Congress doesn't reach a budget solution in the next few months. First year cuts are split evenly between defense and domestic programs, and would affect everything from Pentagon's ability to buy guns, ships and planes to the National Weather Service's equipment for forecasting hurricanes and tornadoes.
Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps and veterans' benefits would be exempt. President Barack Obama recently announced military personnel won't be affected.
The planned sequester is an effort to ease the federal deficit and trim $1.2 trillion over the next decade, and was the default plan if other compromises failed.
Last August, congressional Republicans demanded spending cuts in response to Obama's plea to raise the nation's borrowing authority by $2.1 trillion. As part of the negotiated deal, the two sides agreed on $900 billion in spending cuts and the creation of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. When that so-called "supercommittee" was unable to reach a consensus on a deficit-cutting plan last November, the countdown toward sequestration began.
The Republicans' stop in the swing state of Nevada is an effort to pressure Obama and Congress to avert the cuts. It's the latest in a series of town halls that included Florida, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., 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.