National Parks Becoming Flashpoint in Shutdown Debate

Mirror Lake at Yosemite National Park
National Journal
Alex Brown
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Alex Brown
Oct. 1, 2013, 11:57 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans are keep­ing tour­ists from the grandeur of Yosemite — on its 123rd birth­day, no less. Demo­crats are pre­vent­ing World War II vet­er­ans from vis­it­ing their own me­mori­al. No one, it seems, can agree on if or how to fund the gov­ern­ment or who’s to blame for the shut­down, but every­one wants cred­it for de­fend­ing your right to go to the park.

Thanks to the shut­down, all na­tion­al parks are closed, and they have be­come per­haps the fore­most ex­ample of a dys­func­tion­al gov­ern­ment’s cost to the av­er­age cit­izen.

At the World War II Me­mori­al, dozens of vet­er­ans barged through bar­ri­ers Tues­day to vis­it their states’ pil­lars. Among those claim­ing cred­it for help­ing the her­oes ac­cess their trib­ute site: Reps. Michele Bach­mann, R-Minn., Bill Huiz­enga, R-Mich., Steve King, R-Iowa, and Steven Palazzo, R-Miss. Most Re­pub­lic­ans at the site blamed Sen­ate Demo­crats for the me­mori­al’s clos­ure. The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee took it a step fur­ther, send­ing out an email list-build­ing pe­ti­tion that used the vet­er­ans to blame Demo­crats.

Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t the only ones who have found parks polit­ic­ally po­tent. “Yosemite Na­tion­al Park is lonely on its 123rd birth­day, thanks to the #GOPShut­down,” tweeted Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. The Demo­crat­ic Party is­sued its own blame to the GOP for Yosemite’s clos­ure.

As the shut­down fight drags on, it seems likely parks will re­main at the cen­ter of the battle. The House is set to vote on a bill to re­store fund­ing to the na­tion­al parks, the Dis­trict of Columbia, and the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs. Sen­ate Demo­crats seem un­likely to ac­cept any meas­ure ex­cept full gov­ern­ment fund­ing, so ex­pect an­oth­er round of the blame game when the House meas­ure dies in the up­per cham­ber.

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