RNC offers to pay for World War II memorial guards
(CNN) — The Republican National Committee is offering the United States government a check to pay for guards at the National World War II Memorial, chairman Reince Priebus announced Wednesday.
“We’re willing to pay the bill,” said Priebus, who was speaking to reporters as he stood in front of a fence at the memorial.
The memorial had been the site of a dramatic encounter Tuesday between visiting World War II veterans and a fence erected to keep visitors out. The National Parks Service argued the government shutdown left them with no personnel to guard and maintain the open air memorial.
According to Priebus, the RNC is willing to pay for five guards who would watch over the memorial, what the party committee estimated to be a $150,000 expenditure for 30 days, Priebus said.
Priebus also invited the Democratic National Committee to help pay for the proposed security at the memorial.
The memorial fence has become a flashpoint in the shutdown debate, with Democrats blaming Republican intransigence for forcing all national parks, including the memorial on the National Mall, to close down.
The DNC quickly responded to the Republican proposal by calling it a “stunt.”
“We’ve already been working on a plan to open the Memorial — and the entire government — after the GOP caused them to close. It’s called a clean funding resolution and it sounds like the votes are there if the Speaker would just call for a vote,” DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee said in a statement.
“It would save the economy a lot of money and get the Memorial and government open a whole lot faster. I think he probably has Speaker Cruz Boehner’s number somewhere, and I’ll bet veterans would appreciate it a whole lot more than his silly stunt.” (In the DNC statement, Cruz’s name appeared with a line through it, a clear jab intended to question who is actually leading Congressional Republicans)
Democrats have accused Boehner of weak leadership, cowtowing to tea party Republicans led in part by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
Republicans in turn have blasted President Barack Obama’s administration for closing off open air memorials that do not have staff 24/7, but that visitors can walk up to any hour of the day.
Priebus accused the administration of wantonly keeping out the World War II veterans.
“It was the Obama administration’s choice to block this memorial,” Priebus said.
“The president himself promised to veto legislation that would keep our monuments open,” he said, in reference to the piecemeal funding measures introduced yesterday in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. Those measures, which would have funded national parks, veterans’ benefits and the Washington, D.C. local government, failed to get the two-thirds majority they needed to pass Tuesday.
Obama has promised to veto any piecemeal funding legislation and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the approach was not serious. Senate Democrats have managed to hold firm against anything other than a “clean” funding resolution that provides money for the entire government, including Obamacare.
Priebus said donors to the RNC would be “happy” to fund guards for the memorial.
“Our donors have had it with a stubborn Democratic party who’ve been offered one deal after the next by the Republicans in the House,” Priebus said.
Priebus charged that Democrats “don’t want to keep the parks open,” he said. “They want to make it painful.”
For now, it appears that the World War II and other memorials will remain closed, albeit with far less effort made at keeping people out.
“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,” National Park Service Spokeswoman Carol Johnson said in a statement.
“The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks.”
Honor Flights is a non-profit organization that provides free transportation to aging military veterans who want to visit the World War Two Memorial.