GOP blasts National Park Service for shutdown closures
By Laura Barron-Lopez - 10/16/13 01:09 PM ET
House Republicans on Wednesday assailed the National Park Service director for erecting barriers at national monuments during the government shutdown.
They accused Jonathan Jarvis of violating federal law by putting up the barricades at 401 national monuments and parks with no apparent imminent threat.
In a joint hearing Wednesday, the House Natural Resources, and Oversight and Government Reform committees met to review the actions of the Park Service since the government shutdown took effect Oct. 1.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) charged the NPS with violating the Antideficiency Act in barring visitors from the parks during the shutdown. The law prohibits any work from being done during a lapse in government funding.
Jarvis said the NPS has kept in line with the law despite furloughing 20,000 employees — roughly 85 percent of the park service — after the shutdown.
"Out of 300 Park Service employees that would normally be on the National Mall, I have 12," Jarvis said.
The GOP still blasted Jarvis, calling for an explanation from the Park Service for barricading monuments, citing the incident during week one of the shutdown when veterans attempted to visit the World War II Memorial. Those same monuments, Republicans alleged, were not shuttered during the 1995 shutdown.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) shot back and defended Jarvis.
"If my Republican colleagues would look at me, I can show them who is responsible," DeFazio said while holding a mirror before the Republican side of the aisle. "Here, here's who is responsible for shutting down national parks."
DeFazio asked the GOP why they were pretending to care about the national parks now when sequestration and budget cuts have hit the parks hardest
"We have an $11 million backlog of maintenance work at the national parks," Jarvis said, who was subpoenaed by the Oversight Committee to appear at Wednesday's hearing.
And more subpoenas are set to hit the NPS.
"It is very clear that the promises you make have no value," said Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
Issa promised to subpoena the Interior Department before the close of Wednesday's hearing for every document issued leading up to and during the shutdown.
The battle raged to the end over whether the NPS had violated federal law, with Jarvis receiving the brunt of the GOP's questions while Democrats apologized on their behalf.
"The shutdown in 1995 wasn't some shining model; monuments were closed," said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), in defense of Jarvis. "Despite the over the top, made for media accusations and sound bites in this kangaroo court, we have no reason to believe you have done anything wrong."
On top of the subpoenas for Interior's documents, GOP members asked for all documents and emails exchanged between the NPS and states attempting to work out an agreement for the reopening of certain parks.
Late last week, the Interior announced it would agree to reopen national parks if states footed the bill during the shutdown.
Utah signed an agreement with the NPS to reopen eight national sites for 10 days. South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado also signed similar agreements to reopen national parks for a limited amount of days.