WASHINGTON – The 91 veterans on an Honor Flight from Mississippi weren’t going to be denied the chance to see the memorial built for them.
Arriving on four charter buses at Washington’s National Mall on Tuesday morning – the first day of a federal government shutdown – the vets found the World War II monument barricaded and its fountain idle. A sign on the fence read “Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED.”
Honor Flights fly veterans in and out the same day, meaning for most this was their final opportunity to see the memorial. With a bagpipe escort, the veterans ignored the barriers and walked or were pushed in wheelchairs to see the column for Mississippi. Park Police stood by, watching.
“This is ridiculous,” said Tom Bratner, 89, who served as a Seabee during the liberation of Guam in 1944. “I hate the Republicans. They’re pulling all kinds of stuff trying to hold hostage things like this.”
The memorial had been closed around 8:30 a.m. and its fountains shut down shortly after that. A National Park Service spokeswoman said Park Police were there monitoring the situation.
“It’s the best civil disobedience we’ve seen in Washington for a long time,” Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., told part of the group inside the memorial.
Poll: 72% oppose tying shutdown to health care
In a rejection of congressional Republicans’ strategy, Americans overwhelmingly oppose undermining President Barack Obama’s health care law by shutting down the federal government or resisting an increase in the nation’s debt limit, according to a poll released Tuesday.
By 72 percent to 22 percent, Americans oppose Congress “shutting down major activities of the federal government” as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, the national survey from Quinnipiac University found.
A majority of the public, 58 percent, is opposed to cutting off funding for the insurance program that began enrollment Tuesday. Thirty-four percent support defunding it.
By 49 percent to 45 percent, more voters disapprove than approve of how Obama is handling his job as president. They oppose the health care law by 47 percent to 45 percent.
“Americans are certainly not in love with Obamacare, but they reject decisively the claim by congressional Republicans that it is so bad that it’s worth closing down the government to stop it,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Hamden, Conn.-based polling institute.
Lawmakers still get paid
There’s at least one constant in a government shutdown: The 532 members of Congress continue to be paid – at a cost of $10,583.85 an hour to taxpayers.
Lawmakers get their pay even as hundreds of congressional staffers are sent home and packs of tourists are turned away at the Capitol.
House members and senators can’t withhold their own pay even if they want to. Under the Constitution’s 27th Amendment, lawmakers can change the pay only of those in a future Congress, not the one in which they serve. Senators and House members are paid $174,000 a year; a handful of leaders make up to $20,000 more.
Lawmakers aren’t oblivious to how it looks. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and others are pledging to donate their salaries to charity during the shutdown.
D.C. Council keeps local government running
District of Columbia lawmakers approved emergency legislation Tuesday to keep tens of thousands of municipal workers on the job and collecting pay during a partial federal government shutdown.
The D.C. Council bill authorizes the government to tap a contingency fund to pay the roughly 32,000 city workers during the shutdown. The measure, along with a related decision by Mayor Vincent Gray to declare all local government operations essential, means that all municipal services – from trash collection to libraries – will continue uninterrupted in a city otherwise grappling with the impact of the partial federal shutdown.