Watch CBSN Live

Republicans investigating monument closures during shutdown

Congress let the government shutdown when it failed to pass a spending bill earlier this week, but House Republicans think the Obama administration put barricades around open-air Washington monuments like the World War II Memorial in order to make the shutdown as ugly as possible.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is looking into the matter, a committee aide confirmed to

Additionally, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sent a letter to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, asking him to save all documents relating to the barricading of the monuments for further investigation. They said the committee is considering holding hearings on the matter as well.

The decision to block off not only the monuments, which are typically accessible 24 hours a day, but also adjacent sidewalks and roads, suggests the move "was made in order to make the current lapse in appropriations as conspicuous and painful to the public as possible," Hastings and Bishop wrote.

On the Natural Resources Committee website, the congressmen wrote that it was "ironic" the administration would choose to barricade monuments now, when "exactly two years ago back in 2011 the Obama Administration let members of the Occupy Movement camp at McPherson Square (also controlled by the National Park Service) for MONTHS before evicting them."

Since the government shut down on Tuesday, House Republicans have advocated passing piecemeal spending bills to restore funding to the national parks and memorials, as well as other isolated matters, such as the National Guard and Reserves and certain scientific research. Democrats, however, have rejected that approaching, calling on Republicans to pass a complete spending bill.

In the meantime, Republicans have seized on the memorial closings to attack Democrats. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on Twitter on Wednesday, "@BarackObama sent 7 security guards to #WWIIMemorial this AM to keep out our vets. Sadly, that is 2 more than were present in Benghazi."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, called the closures unnecessary, remarking on Fox News on Wednesday, "I'm wondering what are they going to do next -- hang a drapery over Mt. Rushmore? I mean, this is ridiculous!"

View CBS News In