GOPers Predict Biden, Hill Dems Will Deploy 'Washington Monument Strategy' if Government Shuts Down Over Budget

Congressional Republicans brace for a storm of criticism by Democrats claiming maintaining services to needy is more important than cutting government spending.
GOPers Predict Biden, Hill Dems Will Deploy 'Washington Monument Strategy' if Government Shuts Down Over Budget
A U.S. Park Police officer stands guard in front of the closed Lincoln Memorial, Oct. 1, 2013, in Washington. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Tapscott

Facing the prospect of a temporary government shutdown if Congress fails to adopt a new federal budget by midnight, Sept. 30, Republican officials and strategists are expecting an onslaught of dire 'Washington Monument Strategy'-based predictions from Democrats.

The Washington Monument Strategy (WMS), according to the Political Dictionary, "is named after a tactic used by the National Park Service to threaten closure of the popular Washington Monument when lawmakers proposed serious cuts in spending on parks ... The strategy is used at all levels of government in an attempt to get the public to rally around government services they take pride in or find useful."

The WMS was most famously used in 2013 when President Barack Obama ordered the World War II monument on the National Mall closed during a budget battle with Tea Party Republicans in Congress.

Mainstream media outlets repeatedly broadcast and posted live shots and news videos of veterans in wheelchairs who came from all across America, often on once-in-a-lifetime visits to the nation's capital, being turned away from the monument during the 16-day shutdown.

The usually unreported reality of a shutdown, however, is that, while most federal workers are furloughed, essential employees must continue doing their jobs, especially if the protection of human life, such as law enforcement and food safety inspections, and maintaining security of government property are involved. Key benefits, including Social Security and Medicare, also continue to flow, as noted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in a recent analysis.

But other benefit programs, most notably, those paid to veterans, can be delayed, and federal departments and agencies are barred from incurring new spending obligations. Small businesses that supply the government goods and services can also be forced to wait for payments.

"A lot of activities that are essential to the nation's security continue, but a lot of important activities also do grind to a halt under a showdown," BPC Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Lautz told The Epoch Times in a telephone interview.

Asked if he worries about the WMS, Rep. Robert Good (R-Va.) told The Epoch Times that his Virginia constituents are “are fed up with Washington’s out-of-control spending and the impact it’s having on their lives. Politicians from both parties have piled up $100,000 worth of debt for every man, woman, and child in America, and so-called Bidenomics is making it harder for families to make ends meet. Sadly, too many timid politicians in Congress are willing to keep funding business as usual instead of fighting back against the media and the Biden administration, who are engaged in fear-mongering.”

Robert Moffit, the Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow who has held top staff positions in both the executive and legislative branches, agrees that House Republicans should ignore the WMS predictions that are likely coming.
"Temporary government shutdowns are not tantamount to a national catastrophe, with seniors losing Medicare coverage or being denied their Social Security checks. They do face, however, the inevitable barrage of the Washington establishment's transparently childish propaganda," Mr. Moffit told The Epoch Times.
"Faced with record deficit and dangerous debt, aggravated by Team Biden's crazy spending and damaging inflation, congressional Republicans must rise to the occasion and enact serious spending reductions and legislation to secure what's left of America's broken border. In the absence of a Continuing Resolution (CR), this is their highest priority.
"They can forget fair coverage from the Washington press corps, the palace guard of the Beltway's ruling class. But the folks back home did not send them to Washington to win the establishment's popularity contest," Mr. Moffit said.
Politically, government shutdowns are all about appearances, according to Jimmy Keady, a national Republican campaign strategist.

“A potential government shutdown is more consequential than just shutting down national parks. Instead of prioritizing our veterans and essential government services, Biden and the Democrats are going to engage in a politically motivated game of deception guided by optics, not impact,” Mr. Keady told The Epoch Times.

A shutdown in 2023 won't be the first one seen by Brian Darling, another Republican strategist and a former senior counsel to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

“The last few partial shutdowns of the government led to shutdown theater by Democrats, including the closing of national parks and other government services so they can make-believe that the whole government is shutting down," Mr. Darling told The Epoch Times.

"They will stop veterans from accessing the WWII memorial in Washington and shut down parks in a way that will maximize the political pain for Republicans, even though this is completely unnecessary. The Antideficiency Act allows core government functions, like defense spending, to continue, and the Biden administration should not engage in a cynical political play to take advantage of the situation,” he continued.

 Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) speaks in Washington on Jan. 15, 2020 (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) speaks in Washington on Jan. 15, 2020 (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

At least one Republican senator, John Barrasso of Wyoming, is seeking to head off one aspect of the WMS, reminding Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland about the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), which was approved in 2004.

"The FLREA authorizes you to retain funds from the collection of fees and to use those funds for various purposes, including visitor access and services, public health and safety, and law enforcement related to public use and recreation," Mr. Barrasso told Ms. Haaland in a Sept. 20 letter.

"In previous years, it has been demonstrated that these funds can be successfully utilized to keep public lands open during a lapse in appropriations. During the December 2018-January 2019 shutdown, most of the national parks remained accessible to visitors because FLREA funds were available to cover costs associated with visitor services and law enforcement," Mr. Barrasso wrote.

Meanwhile, members of Congress continue negotiating behind closed doors while budget experts keep hoping for the best.

“The most basic job of government is to pass a budget, and the deadline to make that happen every single year is September 30. Yet here we are, just days away from a potential government shutdown that threatens to furlough hundreds of thousands of federal employees and cause unnecessary disruptions across the country. Congress and the Administration need to come together as soon as possible to keep the lights on," Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget President Maya MacGuineas told The Epoch Times.

"They already agreed on funding levels through the Fiscal Responsibility Act in June; they should stick to those levels now and build on the momentum going forward. Working together to address our fiscal health through a bipartisan commission would be a great way to make those conversations happen,” Ms MacGuineas said.

But limited government advocates continue to hope the final result of the approaching standoff will be less federal spending and regulation.

“At a time when even left-wing economists have expressed shock that with supposed full-employment, the federal government continues to run a $2 trillion annual deficit, it should surprise no one that the Biden team chooses to focus upon optics rather than seizing this opportunity to fix the border crisis, which inflames spending and make even minor spending cuts difficult. It is almost as if the intent of Bidenomics is to pour gasoline on our nation’s fiscal fire,” Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Richard Manning told The Epoch Times.
Taxpayer Protection Alliance (TPA) President David Williams predicted in an email to The Epoch Times that “the Biden Administration is sure to shut down national parks and other services in very visible and painful ways to distract from the fact that such basics aren’t truly driving Washington’s budget issues.”
And when asked by The Epoch Times for comment, Less Government President Seton Motley took the opportunity to remind that “this must be reemphasized every time the federal government is about to shut down: It was NEVER supposed to be anywhere near large enough to affect the national economy. It was supposed to be a tiny irrelevancy to domestic existence.”
Government shutdowns over spending battles have become more frequent in recent years, but the WMS is by no means new. The apparent first instance of its use came in 1892, just six years after the Washington Monument was officially opened, according to scholar Nicole Sully.

"In this instance, the threatened closure was the result of a funding gap related to the impending expiration of an appropriation bill related to the Chicago World’s Fair that had been repeatedly blocked by the two Democratic congressmen. The anticipated closure of the monument was listed among other injustices and inconveniences that would also occur, including delays in the burials of 'indigent soldiers' and the issuing of 'artificial limbs to crippled veterans,” she wrote in an academic journal.

Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.