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Public Statements

Reopening Our Nation's Monuments and Memorials

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SANFORD. Mr. Speaker, I have been a runner all my life. I ran in high school and college, and it has always been my way of sort of clearing my head. Sometimes I clearly haven't run enough.

Over the years, during my roughly 20 years in and out of Washington, I have made it a tradition of running down the Mall, down to the Lincoln Memorial. I have been down at the Lincoln Memorial on those runs in the dead of night when there was not a soul down there. I have been down there at sunrise when there was nobody there. I have been there on a summer afternoon when it seemed like every tourist from this country and every tourist from around this world was gathered there.

But yesterday I went for an evening run after votes, and I saw something I have never seen before, because as I ran down the Mall, I got to the World War II Memorial and it was chained up. Mind you, this is an open-air rock memorial dedicated to the sacrifice of so many soldiers there in World War II, an open-air rock memorial.

But I continued only with my run, and I got down to the Lincoln Memorial, and to my amazement that thing was chained up too. I was so agitated in seeing this that I turned to a tourist and I said, You got to be kidding me. Would you take a picture of that? And it was actually a family from Shanghai, China, here halfway around the world. They took the picture, and they emailed it to me last night and it is an amazing shot.

As you can see there, the Lincoln Memorial, two guards. Now, mind you, I have been there many times when nobody was there, no security guard, nobody. And yet in this instance you have chains around it, two police cars, simply to keep people out of one of the great memorials to freedom in our country.

It just strikes me that that is a picture of political gamesmanship and hostage taking, and I would say respectfully, Mr. President, you have gone too far on this one. At the time of the sequester, you ended school tours to the White House. Now, mind you, not since Jefferson's time and war has the people's House, the White House, been shut down for public tours. But you used that as a political tool to somehow gain advantage in the sequester that still exists so kids from 8th grade may take their one trip to Washington, D.C., and can't go to the White House because you think it will gain political favor. And I see the same thing going on with this.

So let's agree that we disagree. We agree that we as Republicans think we ought to be spending less. You and Harry Reid think we ought to be spending more. I think the Congressional Budget numbers are on our side. They say that in just 12 years we are only going to have enough money to pay for interest and entitlements and nothing else, and in that regard this is just a sneak preview of much more damaging things to come if we don't get our financial house in order.

But I would say it is okay to have disagreements, but it is not okay to hold, I guess, citizens hostage and try to maximize and inflict pain in their ability to do normal things, particularly when the House has offered four different bites at the apple in keeping the government open and particularly when just last night bills were sent to Harry Reid that would have kept government open, would have kept the Park Service open, would have kept groups like NIH open.

I think this is really important. Reagan once said there at the Brandenburg Gate to Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall; and I would say to you Mr. President, take down the chains. Take down the walls to these open-air memorials to freedom. This is not the National Archives where things could be taken or stolen. These are open-air memorials. This is ridiculous political gamesmanship. I was Governor for eight years. I have been an executive. I know that you can do this, and I would ask that you do so.

I am going to go for my evening run, 5:30, 6 o'clock. I would invite every one of you all up there in the gallery to come join me at the Lincoln Memorial. I would ask listeners out there to join me at the Lincoln Memorial. I will talk to Representative Palazzo from Mississippi and Michele Bachmann and others who gathered there at the World War II Memorial. This has gotten out of control with regard to this degree of political gamesmanship by Harry Reid and by the President.

So I would just ask that you take another look at that picture, think about what it means, think about the sacrifice that has been made that is ultimately about what these memorials are founded on, and why can't we do something about it, Mr. President. I would ask you to do so.

I would invite folks for a 5:30 or 6 o'clock run down at the Lincoln Memorial.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair reminds Members that they are to direct their remarks to the Chair.

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