Congress to scrutinize monument closures during government shutdown

The House Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are holding a joint hearing for next week to investigate whether the Obama administration barricaded open-air Washington monuments like the World War II Memorial to make the ongoing government shutdown as painful as possible.

The hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, is entitled, "As Difficult As Possible: The National Park Service's Implementation of the Government Shutdown."

"Across the country, Americans are deliberately being denied access to open-air memorials and national parks - places that are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said in a statement. "These are sites that were not closed by the Clinton Administration during the last government shutdown. However, the Obama Administration appears determined to make their shutdown as difficult and painful as possible."

The committees have yet to announce who will testify at the hearing, though both Hastings and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., last week sent letters to National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis asking for more information about the decision to barricade the monuments. Issa wrote that his concerns about the Park Service's motivations were heightened due to "suspicious decisions" made ahead of sequestration.

"This past spring the Committee uncovered evidence that NPS's budgetary decisions were designed to intentionally cause the most disruption to the public in a time of reduced funding," Issa's letter said.

The monuments were barricaded last week after federal operations partially shut down on Oct. 1 due to Congress' failure to pass a government funding bill. The partial shutdown, which stemmed from Republicans' insistence on using the funding bill to either dismantle or delay parts of Obamacare, has dragged on into its second week. It's unclear exactly what the GOP's end game is, given that Democrats won't make that concession. Still, there might be resolution in sight, now that lawmakers are actually sitting down to talk to each other.