By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
After a ping-pong of legislative fights ended in a government shutdown Monday, all non-mandatory governmental spending was frozen. This includes sites managed by the National Parks system such as the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone, and the Smithsonian complex.
Despite this, some of the sites that were slated to be “closed” on Monday, primarily the World War II Memorial, were forced to open by Republican members of the House of Representatives.
According to Representative Michele Bachmann of Iowa, she was on her morning run when she received word that several buses of veterans had arrived at the WWII Memorial to the sight of police tape and barricades, due to closure because of the shutdown.
Indeed, about a hundred and fifty veterans from both Iowa and Mississippi were attempting to visit the memorial as part of their scheduled Honor Flight.
Honor Flight is a program that allows veterans from around the country who might never otherwise get the chance, to fly to Washington D.C. to visit the memorial commemorating their brave actions in duty.
The veterans that arrived in the Capital Tuesday morning were in fact greeted by police tape and signs notifying the public of closing until continued government funding.
So, in full sweat suit, Michele Bachmann, along with “about eight to twelve” other members of Congress including Spencer Bachus of Vestavia Hills came “as quickly as they could” to use their “authority” to allow the veterans access to the memorial.
Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, who notably sat in the Senate gallery during Ted Cruz’s ‘filibuster,’ had the honor of using a pair of scissors to cut the police tape and allow the veterans entry.
In a statement confirming his presence at the event, Bachus said, “The America that I have known would have welcomed our WWII Veterans with open arms and spared no effort to make their tour of the monument as pleasant and honorable as possible. For them to be greeted by barricades is not the America that our forefathers left us.”
Ironically, all GOP members of Congress confirmed to have attended the events at the memorial voted of late not to fund the government, which would have allowed the site to remain open, but to pass a continuing resolution that defunded a major portion of new, but mandatory government spending: that associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
In an interview given by Bachmann during the occurrence, she made clear that she was glad to do what she thought was right. She explained that while it was “Pure joy for them [the veterans],” there was “even greater joy for us [members of Congress].”
That may be even truer than she realizes. A volunteer for Honor Flight present Tuesday said that while the veterans were disappointed, they understood why the site was closed. He also said: “I don’t think that the veterans would have opened the gates. They have more respect for the circumstances than normal tourists.”
No matter what, though, according to the Representatives who attended, there will be members of Congress at the site every day until the government reopens to ensure veterans have the ability to see the memorial.
While a complete government funding resolution is not imminent, GOP House leadership has confirmed that they will begin voting for piecemeal funding bills starting later this week.