Interior Chairman Simpson Statement on H.J. Res. 70, the Open Our Nation Parks and Museums Act
October 2, 2013 -
On October 2, House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson gave the following statement on the House floor in support of H.J. Res. 70, Open Our Nation Parks and Museums Act:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this important legislation to fund the operation of the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and the National Gallery of Art.
"Mr. Speaker, I spoke yesterday about some of the effects of the government shutdown which began a couple of days ago. With each passing day, we hear of more and more impacts resulting from the shutdown across the country and in our nation’s capital.
"I want to remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that all 401 National Park Service units in the United States, 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries (including the National Zoo), the Holocaust Museum, and the National Gallery of Art remain closed to the public. This legislation, if adopted, would re-open these national treasures to the American public.
"Mr. Speaker, the government shutdown is having a real impact on real people and on the national economy. I remind my colleagues that it’s estimated that the local economy is losing up to $200 million a day with the National Zoo, Smithsonian museums, the Holocaust Museum, the National Gallery of Art, and other popular attractions closed to the public. This doesn’t even begin to measure the national and international impact of these closures.
"Think of the families, the veterans groups, the groups of students—all who have saved for months and in some cases, years, to travel to our nation’s capital from across the country to visit the Air and Space Museum, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the National Zoo, Ford’s Theater, or the National Gallery of Art. This government shutdown has an impact on real people.
"Think of the families who made reservations to visit Yosemite or Yellowstone or the Statue of Liberty and now find these National Parks shuttered today. This government shutdown has an impact on real people.
"Think of the impact the government shutdown is having on Ford’s Theater, one of the most hallowed National Park Service historic sites in our country. Not only are tourists denied entrance to the historic theater but the shutdown has forced evening performances at the theater to be moved to another location during the budget impasse.
"Think of the young couple who have a National Park Service permit to get married at the Jefferson Memorial on Saturday. Their families are arriving from all over the country—over 130 people—for what should be the happiest day of their new life together. But because of the government shutdown, they are not able to get married at the Jefferson Memorial and are now scrambling to find an alternate location to get married. Let’s pass this bill so this couple can get married at the Jefferson Memorial.
"There is a photo on the front page of today’s Washington Post showing National Park Service employees putting up barricades around the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall. This is an open air memorial accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
"Just down the street, barricades were put up around the World War II Memorial—again, a memorial accessible to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Fortunately, these temporary barriers didn’t stop a large group of visiting World War II veterans—members of our Greatest Generation in their 80’s and 90’s, many of them in wheelchairs—from storming the barricades so they could witness the memorial built to honor their courage and sacrifice.
"Tourists visiting Washington—and indeed many furloughed Federal employees—are today finding actual physical barriers to prevent them from experiencing our open air national monuments honoring Lincoln, Jefferson, King, and our World War II heroes.
"At some point, the Congress and the President will overcome their differences over Federal spending. But isn’t it ironic—and even cynical—that when the government shuts down, the President’s administration actually builds physical barriers at sites that are otherwise open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. How cynical is that?
"To my friends on the Democrat side of the aisle and to the President, I say this: Tear down these barriers. Tear them down.
"Let’s open our national parks. Let’s open the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Gallery of Art. Why are House and Senate Democrats denying the American public the right to visit these treasured sites?
"To my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I will close with this thought:
"By opposing this legislation, you are voting to keep our national parks closed. Yellowstone closed. Yosemite closed. The Statue of Liberty closed. Ford’s Theater closed. You are voting to keep the Smithsonian closed. You are voting to keep the National Zoo closed. You are voting to keep the Holocaust Memorial Museum closed. You are voting to keep the National Gallery of Art closed.
"Mr. Speaker, this is a common sense bill and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support it. Let’s re-open these national treasures. I reserve the balance of my time."