Standing Up for Our Veterans

Oct 5, 2013

Dear Friends,

Today is the fifth day the government has been closed because of the Senate’s refusal to compromise on funding the government.  While some of the consequences of a shutdown are unavoidable, it has come to my attention that the Obama Administration is intentionally increasing the public’s discomfort by playing politics with our veterans.

Earlier this week, I came across one example that was particularly upsetting.  Many of you have seen video of part of my reaction to the closure of the World War II Memorial.  I want to be clear: I meant no disrespect to the park ranger, who was simply doing her job. 

I’d like to share some details about what happened that day.  The World War II Memorial, an open-air site on the National Mall that is open to the public 24-7, was barricaded off using metal fences set up by heavy machinery.  This site, which was built with private funds, is minimally staffed when the government is running.  But, the Obama Administration ordered the memorial to be fenced off and guarded by park rangers.  That means that the time and resources they spent fencing off the memorial is greater than the resources required to leave it open to the public. 

I visited the memorial when I heard it was being closed off to veterans.  An Honor Flight from Lubbock will be bringing veterans from West Texas to Washington, DC in a few weeks, and I wanted to be sure that they would have access to their monument.

I was pleased to see that other Members of Congress had managed to open the gates to veterans that were visiting that day.  After I welcomed these American heroes to the structure built in their honor, I turned to leave.  And as I did so, the park rangers began closing the fences, barring veterans who weren’t part of the Honor Flight. 

A veteran is barred from entering the WWII Memorial
because he was not part of a "First Amendment" activity

I was stunned.

I asked the ranger why the gates were being closed to American veterans.  I regret that my frustration with the situation seemed to be directed at her--that was not my intention. 

When I asked the ranger why Honor Flight veterans were allowed inside but other veterans were excluded, I was told that the Honor Flight was a “First Amendment” demonstration.  While the memorial is closed to the public, they decided to open it to organized protests.  Folks, that’s the Obama Administration’s clever way of having their cake and eating it too.  They want the memorials closed to the public—and they’re spending money to do that.  But they know that Americans would be outraged by seeing hundreds of veterans turned away from a memorial built in their honor.  So they came up with this “First Amendment” loophole. 

You know what?  Everyone has First Amendment rights.  And the individual veterans I saw being turned away put their lives on the line to protect those rights.  So I was upset.  I believe that what the Obama Administration is asking the Park Service to do is disgraceful.  It’s a deliberate attempt to dramatize the debate over government funding and health care.  It’s meant to provoke people into anger, and I sure was provoked.  I believe that what the Park Service is doing at the direction of the Obama Administration is shameful, and we should all be ashamed of these political ploys.

So I’m calling on the Obama Administration to stop using our veterans as pawns, and to stop using the American people as pawns.  Let’s have an honest discussion about the real issue here: giving all Americans the same protections from Obamacare that the President has already given to businesses and special interest groups.

That is the heart of the Republican proposal.  We’re asking for a one-year delay of the individual healthcare mandate—the same delay that the Administration just gave to businesses.  And we’re asking for all Members of Congress, our staffs, and political appointees to take part in the Obamacare exchanges without any special treatment.  It’s a reasonable request, but instead of negotiating with us on this, the President is trying to strong-arm Republicans into giving up, by making the shutdown as painful as possible. 

Texans don’t budge easily—especially not when we’re standing up for the principals that make this country great: fairness, equality, and freedom. 

As your representative in Washington, I’m committed to promoting those values, and I’ll keep working to get our country back on track.