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Silver State Is Golden for Lawmakers on Monday

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sens. John McCain (above), Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham will hold a town hall meeting in North Las Vegas on Monday to press for a legislative replacement for the budget sequester.

If you're looking for Members of Congress on Monday, you might try Nevada.

The Silver State plays host to a pair of policy events that epitomize the varied priorities of Members of Congress. While substantively unrelated, both issues could shade the battleground's political environment leading up to November.

Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) will be visiting the southern part of the state.

The trio will hold a town hall meeting in North Las Vegas to press for a legislative replacement for the budget sequester, the coming automatic across-the-board discretionary spending cuts required when the deficit reduction super committee could not reach agreement on a plan last year.

The visit to North Las Vegas, near the 14,000-acre Nellis Air Force Base, is the latest stop on the GOP Senatorial road show warning of the dire consequences to defense preparedness and the economy of military communities. According to the base, the population of the area with military connections totals upward of 40,000.

"We look forward to visiting Nevada to sound the alarm about the profound negative consequences of these cuts to our national security and economy. North Las Vegas and similar communities across the nation - which do so much to provide our troops the equipment and support they need to defend our country - will bear the brunt of the defense sequestration cuts," McCain, Graham and Ayotte said in a joint statement.

Nevada is the fifth state on the tour.

The Office of Management and Budget has already informed Congress of a plan to exempt military personnel accounts from being hit by the sequester, but the White House has yet to outline specifics of the cuts on other programs.

McCain, Graham and Ayotte offered an invitation to Nevada Sens. Harry Reid (D) and Dean Heller (R), but both already had other plans. A Republican aide said Reid and Heller were invited Thursday.

Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is spending some vacation time with his wife, Landra, who has been undergoing treatment for stage 2 breast cancer since last year.

Heller has his hands full with a general election contest looming against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D).

While his three Republican colleagues come to the state to talk about a topic of national importance, Heller will focus on a far more parochial issue.

He will spend Monday in Northern Nevada hosting the annual Lake Tahoe Summit, an important regional event intended to promote environmental stewardship and regional tourism.

Leadership of the summit rotates between the parties and between Senators from California and Nevada. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Jerry Brown will lead the Democratic delegation at the event. Feinstein is the lead sponsor of an effort to promote environmental restoration in the Lake Tahoe Basin, legislation Heller signed on to in July.

Originally, Berkley was not planning to attend, a decision that generated a bit of sniping between surrogates for the two Senate candidates.

Berkley's campaign told the Reno Gazette-Journal last week that she would not appear at the summit because she was not granted a speaking role.

After the report by the Reno newspaper, however, campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said supporters near the lake asked Berkley to attend anyway.

"A number of Tahoe supporters have reached out to make clear that they are deeply disappointed that Congresswoman Berkley has not been afforded the opportunity to address the summit, but that they are eager to sit down with her to discuss how to protect this national treasure," Hinojosa said in a Friday email.

"Shelley Berkley is a longtime advocate for Lake Tahoe and, while it's unfortunate that she is not permitted to participate, she is looking forward to attending the conference as a guest of several local advocates," Hinojosa added.

Stewart Bybee, Heller's Senate communications director, said the Berkley camp's account of events is bogus.

"Congresswoman Berkley was sent an invitation to the Tahoe Summit several weeks ago. She did not express interest in attending the event, nor did the Congresswoman formally request to speak at the Summit," Bybee said in an email.

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