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The Administration is Choosing Calligraphy Over Our Momuments

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SANFORD. Mr. Speaker, I came down to this well yesterday to talk about how for 20 years I have run back and forth to the Lincoln Memorial and how the day before yesterday I was shocked to run down there and see the place in chains. I had planned on making a run last night, and then tragically this shooting occurred here yesterday.

But it turns out there's some things that I didn't know about the Lincoln Memorial. In this shot, I had become so agitated, I had asked a tourist to take a picture. And it is an amazing picture of, again, the Lincoln Memorial without people, because what I have come to learn is that it has always been a place with people.

I didn't realize that in the last government shutdown, President Clinton elected not to close down the Lincoln Memorial. I didn't realize there had been 17 shutdowns in this country since 1976, and not one President elected to close down the Lincoln Memorial. That means President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, President Bush, and President Clinton each, when given the discretion in how they would handle a shutdown, chose not to hold Americans hostage in somehow gaining political favor by a shutdown that would hurt them on their tour to Washington, D.C. In fact, what I came to learn is that in the history of the American Republic, the Lincoln Memorial has never been shut down.

So, my simple question would be: Why?

I think it's interesting that Dr. Martin Luther King came to its steps, and he talked about how the American Dream for many pieces of America and many people in America was in chains. And yet this President, for some reason, chooses to chain the Lincoln Memorial in a way that has never been done in the history of our Republic.

I don't know why he would do so, but what I can say is that it turns out he has a history of holding people hostage in a political equation that I think is very, very harmful, because in the sequester, he chose to end public tours to the White House. That means an eighth grader who may be making their one trip to Washington, D.C., over the course of their life is no longer afforded the chance to visit the White House as school groups have done, literally, since the time of Jefferson. Always that has been the people's house--not a palace, but the people's house.

What I came to learn here that I didn't know over the last 24 hours is that the White House, as it turns out, spends $277,000 on a calligrapher. Now, you can either keep the White House open for tours for eighth graders across this country or you can spend $277,000 on calligraphers. Now, what's a calligrapher? A calligrapher is a person who writes in very fancy prose on a very fancy invitation to rich folk to come to the White House. That's what a calligrapher is. And he would elect to do that? Or to take an extra trip on Air Force One? Or not to raise private money to open up the White House for tours?

It turns out, I've come to learn, in many cases, it's costing more to chain these public, open-air monuments, whether the World War II monument, whether the Lincoln Memorial, whether the Jefferson, in many cases costing more to rent barricade equipment than it is to take people out of furlough to have them there in ways that have never been okay.

So it is okay to agree that we disagree. It's okay to say you want to spend more, the House wants to spend less. Harry Reid wants to spend more, we want to spend less. I think the Congressional Budget Office numbers are on our side. What they show is that in just 12 years, we're going to be at a point in this civilization where there will only be enough money to pay for interest and entitlements and nothing else. And in that regard, what we see is simply a prelude to much greater problems in this country if we don't get our financial house in order.

So it's okay to disagree on those things, but it is not okay to try and inflict political pain to the American citizen as a way of somehow scoring a political point, particularly when this House has sent four different bites at the apple in terms of trying to keep government open, and particularly when this House has sent a bill over that would keep the national parks open, that would keep groups like NIH open, Guard and Reservists, go down the list.

So, I would come back and ask of you, Mr. Speaker, that we look for some way of, again, unchaining monuments that have never been chained in the history of this Republic, because I think they represent very silly political games by this President.


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