Sen. Nelson wants to work with Republicans on averting automatic cuts

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on Friday thanked three Republican senators who are coming to his state for a town hall next week for talking about the across-the-board defense cuts that he wants to work with them to reverse.

In a letter to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Nelson said that the senators “can count” on his cooperation to avert the $500 billion in sequestration cuts.

The three Republicans are headed to Tampa, Fla., on Monday as part of a four-state trip of town hall meetings to talk about the danger of the defense cuts.

“Thank you for your efforts to warn residents in some of the states with high military employment about how automatic spending cuts at the Pentagon could harm their communities,” Nelson writes.

The GOP senators are headed to four battleground states in the presidential election that also have a big military presence — Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and New Hampshire — in order to rally public opposition to sequestration.

The issue is also becoming more prominent in some campaigns in the military states. In the Virginia Senate race, former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) released an ad this week attacking former Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) for supporting the Budget Control Act that put sequestration in motion. Nelson, who is up for reelection this year, voted in favor of the Budget Control Act.

The Hill rates Nelson's race “lean Democratic.”

Neither Democrats nor Republicans want the sequestration cuts to occur, but the two sides disagree on alternate deficit reduction plans to avert the cuts.

Republicans have accused Democrats of using the military as a bargaining chip for the end of year tax negotiations by threatening to let the sequestration cuts occur in order to win tax increases. Democrats have hit back that Republicans are protecting tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the military.

Nelson’s letter could work to preempt attacks against him over the defense cuts, which could become an issue in the presidential race in Florida as well.

Other Democratic senators, such as Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.) have also indicated they are working with McCain and Graham to find a deal on sequestration before the election.