Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House passed and sent to the Senate a bipartisan bill to keep our national parks open. Twenty-three Democrats joined the House Republicans to end the closure of these national treasures. They joined us to unlock the gates and to open the doors of these treasures, from Acadia to Zion. They joined with us to tear down the barriers that were erected to block access to our open D.C. memorials that my colleague from South Carolina just alluded to a moment ago. These memorials are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So the Senate should act today to pass this bill and to send it to the President for his signature.
But it is disappointing to see statements from Senate Democrat leaders dismissing and even ridiculing these commonsense steps as ``piecemeal.'' It is even more disappointing that the President has threatened a veto of this bill to keep the parks open.
Mr. Speaker, let's not forget that one week ago today the Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, and the entire Senate, unanimously approved a bill to keep the Federal Helium Reserve open and operating, and last night the President finally signed this bill to prevent a helium shutdown into law. Now, make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Senate unanimously passed it, and I am glad the President signed the law. It is important for our economy.
But the reason I bring this up is that the helium program is part of the Department of the Interior, the Department of the Interior that is responsible for our national parks. So one has to ask, why will the Senate pass and the President sign into law a bill to specifically prevent the closure of our Federal helium program, but then refuse to act on a bill that would end the closure of over 400 national parks that are visited by millions of Americans every year? The contradictions in their words and actions are glaring. Such political posturing is not only illogical and hypocritical, but the result of that posturing punishes the American people.
Mr. Speaker, this does not need to happen, and it should not happen. So I urge the Senate Democrats and the President to stop going out of their way to make the government shutdown as painful as possible, and I urge the Senate Democrats and the President to come to the table and negotiate an end to this shutdown and to act today to take the reasonable and responsible step of passing a bill to open our parks and memorials to America's veterans, families, and all U.S. citizens.