WASHINGTON – Political sparks flew Wednesday morning at the World War II memorial here in Washington, as a group of around 100 Honor Flight veterans arrived to visit the memorial, which has been shuttered as a result of the government shutdown.
On Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, the closure drew lots of attention when a group of Honor Flight veterans from Mississippi knocked down the barricades to get inside, reportedly with the aid of several members of Congress.
More members of Congress arrived on Wednesday to welcome veterans from Missouri and Chicago, and, in the words of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, to make sure they got into the memorial.
The Daily Caller also spotted Michigan Reps. Kerry Bentivolio and Bill Huizenga, and Texas Reps. John Carter, Randy Neugebauer, and Louie Gohmert. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt were there representing the Missouri delegation, along with Missouri Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Ann Wagner. Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk was there, along with Democratic Rep. Bill Foster.
On Wednesday, there was no need to knock down the barricades: The handful of Parks Service officers on hand allowed the Honor Flight veterans to enter as part of a First Amendment activity.
Several of the House members, those not from states where veterans were coming, formed a receiving line for the veterans entering the memorial, shaking their hands and greeting them.
At one point, that greeting line apparently caused a hold up in getting veterans into the memorial.
“Tell them to get out of the way,” McCaskill told an aide.
“The tea party,” she said, was blocking the way from getting in.
Asked who specifically she was referring to, McCaskill said: “The ones that don’t have members here from their states, that are here trying to play politics. Yeah, those.”
“Politics on veterans are bad manners,” she said.
Wagner, also there to meet Missouri veterans, said she hoped that after Tuesday’s fanfare it had not become a political thing.
“I hope not. I didn’t come yesterday. I come when the members from my state are here, and we certainly have them from all over the state … shouldn’t be a political thing here,” she said. “You should come to honor those that are your constituents.”
But, she said, “we welcome one and all and it’s a wonderful thing that they’ve opened up the park to allow our veterans” to enter. She said she hoped that perhaps the attention would lead to the passage of legislation to reopen veterans affairs and the national parks service — legislation that failed to pass the House Tuesday evening.