House Republicans are seizing the Obama administration’s decision to barricade the open-air World War II memorial in Washington as a potent political weapon in their shutdown showdown with the president.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor led a group of GOP lawmakers in denouncing the decision from the Capitol steps, and House oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa has launched an investigation into why the WWII memorial and other open-air monuments have been shut down.
“These properties belong to the American people. They do not belong to a Political party. There is no reason to ever shut those folks out from that,” said Representative Mike Kelly in an emotional speech.
“Once the American people start looking at this, they’re like, ‘what are they doing?’” Representative Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia told me.
Westmoreland was one of a number of lawmakers I spoke to exiting a closed-door meeting of the Republican Study Committee meeting, the conservative caucus in the House Republican conference.
By and large, lawmakers exiting the meeting said they felt calm and confident about public opinion on day two of the government shutdown. While MoveOn.org and other liberal activists are directing hundreds of calls to their office from people who live outside their districts, generally the calls from constituents are favorable, these lawmakers said.
Republican sources described lawmakers in the meeting as extremely unified. As Westmoreland put it, “We’re all together. It’s a unit.”
Representative Raul Labrador said the fact that President Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House to talk tonight is a sign that the tables are turning
“He thought that he could stand strong and be intractable. The Democrats have always wanted to shut down the government because they thought it was going to hurt the Republicans. And now their learning that that’s not the case,” Labrador said.
Issa’s investigation is at its preliminary stages, Frederick Hill, his spokesman, said. But his committee will be exploring whether decisions were made to close monuments and other attractions for political reasons, potentially as a means of worsening the pain of a shutdown to increase political pressure on House Republicans.
Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the oversight panel, was angered that Issa has begun investigating the issue. “I know of no evidence” that the closures were for political reasons, he said.