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Sharp Words Over Shutdown When Lawmaker Visits WWII Memorial

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., has become a flashpoint as the partial government shutdown continues.

First there was the attention paid on Tuesday when a group of WWII veterans (with some help from Republican members of Congress and their staffs) ignored barricades and went through with their long-planned visit to the site.

Now there's video from Wednesday of Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer telling a Park Service ranger that she and her bosses should be ashamed for carrying out the order that the memorial, like other national parks and monuments, should be closed because there's no money available to keep them open.

Neugebauer was there as more WWII veterans were allowed to visit the memorial because the Park Service has decided the vets are exercising their First Amendment rights. But he wasn't pleased that other members of the public weren't being allowed on to the memorial site. He told the ranger that the Park Service should be ashamed. She said it's difficult to turn people away, but that she wasn't ashamed. "You should be," Neugebauer responded.

It's then that a man in a bicycle helmet told the congressman that "this woman [the ranger] is doing her job, just like me. I'm a 30-year federal veteran — I'm out of work."

Neugebauer responded that it's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has "decided to shut down the government."

"No, it's because the government won't do its job and pass a budget," the cyclist countered.

In the background, another voice can be heard taking Neugebauer's side: "The House did their job, they passed appropriations. The Senate hasn't."

Washington's NBC4 had its cameras rolling during the confrontation and spoke with both Neugebauer and the cyclist afterward.

Neugebauer was last mentioned in The Two-Way back in March 2010, when he apologized for shouting "baby killer!" as Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., was speaking on the floor of the House. As we wrote at the time:

"Stupak, a 'pro-life' Democrat, was explaining why he was satisfied by an executive order President Barack Obama had signed that affirmed current law banning federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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