WASHINGTON (NBC News) - Conflict over the responsibility for the government shutdown got personal at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Wednesday when a member of Congress confronted a U.S. Park Service Ranger over access to the closed park land.
The congressman was Randy Neugebauer, a Republican representing Texas. He confronted the ranger in the middle of a crowd of tourists as she was keeping most of the public out of the closed World War II memorial.
The Park Service has been allowing World War II vets who have traveled from all over the country to enter the memorial, even though it's closed during the government shutdown; the rangers say they are exercising their First Amendment rights as they let the veterans in.
But they are keeping the rest of the public out of the facility, which is officially closed. And that did not sit well with the congressman, reported News4's Mark Segraves, who witnessed the confrontation.
"How do you look at them and... deny them access?" said Neugebauer. He, with most House Republicans, had voted early Sunday morning to pass a funding measure that would delay the Affordable Care Act, a vote that set up a showdown with the Senate and President Barack Obama. With the parties unable to agree on how to fund the federal government, non-essential government functions shut down Tuesday.
"It's difficult," responded the Park Service employee.
"Well, it should be difficult," replied the congressman, who was carrying a small American flag in his breast pocket.
"It is difficult," responded the Park Service employee. "I'm sorry, sir."
"The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves," the congressman said.
"I'm not ashamed," replied the ranger.
At that point, a crowd of onlookers got involved. "Ask those questions of the people who aren't passing the budget," shouted a voice from the crowd. "That's who you need to ask these questions to."
"This woman is doing her job, just like me," shouted another. "I'm a 30-year federal veteran -- I'm out of work."
The man, wearing a bicycle helmet, at this point was face to face with the congressman.
"Well, the reason you are is because Mr. Reid decided to shut down the government," responded Neugebauer, referring to the top Senate Democrat.
"No, it's because the government won't do its job and pass a budget," the bicyclist responded.
"The House did its job; it passed appropriations. The Senate hasn't," said another voice from the crowd.
Neugebauer walked away at that point.
The veterans were in D.C. thanks to the Honor Flight Network, which provides flights to D.C. for veterans so they can visit the memorials. Thousands of vets are still on their way to D.C. this weekend as part of the program.
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