Thanks to two events involving the military, the silliness of this government shutdown has been brought into full focus. It began just over a week ago when World War II veterans from Arizona were initially denied entrance to the Washington, D.C., memorial honoring their service. The second came Tuesday when it was reported that families of fallen U.S. military personnel were being denied death benefits.
And whose fault was it in both instances? Republicans blame the Democrats and President Obama. The president and the Democrats say it’s the GOP House that is causing the problems.
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, sized up the memorial closing well, according to a Cronkite News Service report.
“The truth is that I know there’s a lot of grandstanding that surrounds events like this,” Franks said. “But the bottom line is that this government spent more money closing this memorial than they have just keeping it open.”
Denial of those death benefits had the two major party leaders pointing their fingers at one another. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called denial of the benefits “disgraceful,” insisting the Defense Department had been given the authority to make the payments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the situation “appalling,” continuing the line that Republicans are holding the country hostage.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-N.C., put the situation in proper perspective.
“Your government has let you down in a time of your need,” Graham said, blaming Democrats, Republicans and Obama for letting this situation get out of hand.
Two deadlocks are at play here. Republicans continue passing bills keeping parts of the government running — things like the national parks, the Head Start pre-school programs and the payment of federal employees who have been working without paychecks. The White House and the Democrats say they don’t want to do anything piecemeal. They want the House to open the entire government and extend the nation’s debt limit with no questions asked.
Boehner said, “What the president said today was if there’s unconditional surrender by Republicans, he’ll sit down and talk to us. That’s not the way our government works.”
During an hour-long press conference, Obama said he was willing to talk about anything, as long as Republicans reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, even if its for a short period of time.
“Let’s stop the excuses. Let’s take a vote in the House. Let’s end this shutdown, right now; let’s put people back to work” he said.
As you can see, neither side is budging. Meanwhile, people are convinced that government agencies are being punitive during the shutdown. The Christian Science Monitor said “growing numbers of Americans are gleefully engaging in what they call ‘civil disobedience’ by tossing aside cones or jumping over government shutdown-inspired barricades around national monuments, malls and park entrances.”
Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, told the Monitor, “We’ve gone from ‘this land is your land, this land is my land,’ to the government saying this land is its land. President Obama said that government is just a word for things we do together. Apparently that includes kicking WWII veterans off their memorial.”
Another strange rule was handed down in the Upper Florida Keys, according to the Miami Herald. Charter boat guides were informed by the National Park Service that they couldn’t take clients fishing in Florida Bay until the shutdown was over. The result was closure of 1,100 square miles of prime fishing that is off limits. The ruling also affected tour operators, paddling guides and fishing tournaments. Enforcement rangers were going to be on duty to enforce the ruling.
A jogger was fined $100 for running inside Valley Forge National Monument. Another was ticketed for entering Valley Forge National Historical Park through what he said was an ungated entrance. Rangers have been issuing fines to campers, bikers and hikers who jumped the barricades at Maine’s Acadia National Park.
The Christian Science Monitor said, “… Many of the open-air monuments currently barricaded were not closed during earlier shutdowns. Some, including the World War II Memorial, were closed by express orders from the White House, according to the Park Service.”
Obama administration officials counter that the Antideficiency Act passed in 1870 leaves them no alternative. It prohibits the government from making any financial obligations during a shutdown for which Congress hasn’t appropriated funding. They said they could be fired, penalized or imprisoned if they make the wrong choices.
That sounds like a convenient excuse for those who want to make this shutdown hurt Americans in every way possible. What is the likelihood that the federal agencies making these decisions are going to be punished by judicial agencies that are also part of the Obama administration? It won’t happen.
The shutdown isn’t going to end until both sides decide to compromise and make some concessions. However, it appears that neither is interested in giving any ground. If they don’t change their tunes, both will eventually pay a heavy political price for their stubbornness. The polls already have them in heavily unfavorable territory.