Washington • The House Natural Resources Committee wants the National Park Service to preserve documents related to how it decided to close off open-air monuments like the Lincoln Memorial during the government shutdown, hinting that the White House wanted the closure to appear more "painful."
Amid congressional gridlock and without a budget, the Park Service on Tuesday erected three-foot-high fencing around Washington's most iconic symbols, including the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Wall. Such moves didn't happen the last time the government closed, according to an Associated Press report from 1996.
"It is imperative that the Park Service remove the barriers and allow the American public to resume visiting these open-air memorials, monuments and parks without further delay," Committee Chairman Doc Hastings and Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the parks subcommittee, wrote in a letter to the Interior Department.
Hastings and Bishop asked the department to hold on to any documents that show how the decision was made, an "outrageous" move the two Republicans hinted was "made in order to make the current lapse in appropriations as conspicuous and painful to the public as possible."
The letter also notes that the committee may conduct an oversight hearing on the issue later on.
National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said in a statement that America's treasured assets need congressional appropriations to stay open.
"Without staff or funding to ensure the safety of visitors, the security of the memorials, and the continued operation and maintenance of park facilities, the memorials on the National Mall just like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are closed," Johnson said.
After World War II veterans pushed their way through the barriers this week and made national news, the Park Service allowed Honor Flight visitors access to that specific war memorial.