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Republicans put the Director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, under fire Wednesday morning, subpoenaing him to testify in front of Congress to investigate, in part, why open-air parks like the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial are shuttered.

Jarvis’ explanation: Well, there’s a government shutdown, and the NPS is funded by the government.

The Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Natural Resources Committee held the joint hearing. Chairman of the Oversight Committee Darrell Issa and other GOP members criticized the agency, calling some of NPS’ actions “disgusting and despicable” and suggested that turning away people from high profile memorials was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

(House Republicans have been showing up at the World War II Memorial for some patriotic photo-ops with veterans.)

“Why were Americans from the finest generation turned away and told they could not visit [the World War II Memorial]?” Issa asked.
Democrats on the committees, in turn, fired at Republicans for causing the shutdown, and thus, closing the parks.
Jarvis says the shutdown did not affect First Amendment activities at the National Mall, Memorial Parks, and Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, and NPS retained enough staff to permit these activities without ” risk to life or property.”
But, he said, on a typical day there are 300 National Mall and Memorial Park employees on duty, and during the shutdown, all but a dozen of these employees have been furloughed.

“Even though the U.S. Park Police commissioned officers have been exempted from the furlough, given the limited staff resources during the shutdown, prudent and practical steps were taken to secure life and property at these national icons where security has become increasingly complex in a post-9/11 world.

We know that visits of America’s World War II veterans to the memorial are pilgrimages that many of them will only make once. Throughout the shutdown, we have worked diligently to try and ensure that no Honor Flight group, veteran, or their family has been turned away from visiting the veterans’ memorials. Likewise, those also engaging in First Amendment activities are welcome to visit the war memorials.”

Read his full prepared remarks here.


Screenshot from the Library of Congress’ streaming of the hearing