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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Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia and several public interest groups filed the first major lawsuits Tuesday to block the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules. The FCC's rules had prohibited Internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading the states' suit, said that the FCC’s repeal was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and violates federal law. The suit comes just a day after Democrats in the Senate said they were inching closer to acquiring the votes needed to pass legislation overturning the FCC's rule change. It has garnered the support of all 49 Democratic senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
"A former C.I.A. officer suspected of helping China identify the agency’s informants in that country has been arrested, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. Many of the informants were killed in a systematic dismantling of the C.I.A.’s spy network in China starting in 2010 that was one of the American government’s worst intelligence failures in recent years, several former intelligence officials have said. The arrest of the former agent, Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, capped an intense F.B.I. investigation that began around 2012 after the C.I.A. began losing its informants in China."
"Three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit Monday night out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration."
"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."
"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.