WASHINGTON — Even as a deal was in the works to end the federal government shutdown, bickering continued Wednesday morning -- over the closing of national parks.
House Republicans accused the National Park Service of barricading open-air monuments such as the World War II memorial in Washington to make the shutdown "as painful and visible as possible.''
But Democrats ridiculed the hearing, coming as congressional leaders scrambled to avert a potentially economically calamitous default on the national debt and end the 16-day government shutdown.
"This is a Kafka-esque moment,’’ said Rep.
"The solution isn't to have a hearing to pillory somebody for doing his job,'' Connolly said. "The solution is to reopen this government without condition, to avoid default, without condition, and get on with the business of governance before we destroy all confidence in this legislative body.''
National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis defended his actions.
"There's no politics involved here,'' he told lawmakers.
Noting there are 12 of the usual 300 Park Service employees working during the shutdown to protect monuments on the National Mall, he said, "I cannot protect these monuments, memorials to the standard that this country expects me to do so.''
"It pains us to not be able to invite the American public into their national parks,'' he added.
It was unusual for the park service to undergo such harsh criticism. Jarvis underwent the kind of grilling that the heads of less popular agencies such as the
"We seem to be here at this hearing functioning in an alternative universe,’’ said Rep.
The shutdown forced the closure of 401 national parks, from Valley Forge to