The National Park Service politely declined the Republican National Committee's offer to keep the World War II memorial open for the next month.
Republicans have taken up the cause of ensuring access to the memorial ever since elderly veterans managed to make it past metal barricades Tuesday that were barring access to it because of the federal shutdown.Standing near the memorial Wednesday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus criticized the Obama administration for blocking visiting veterans' access to war memorials on the Mall. He said the committee had put aside money "to hire five security personnel to keep this memorial open to veterans and visitors," and he invited the Democratic National Committee to share in the expense.
In an e-mail, National Park Service spokeswoman Jennifer Mummart said the agency had no choice but to reject the RNC's donation.
"We have received quite a few offers from states, localities and businesses to pay for or provide support to re-open national parks. This is evidence of how much these places mean to people, and we take that very seriously," she wrote in an e-mail. "We have declined all of these offers because we are a national system operated by the National Park Service, which now, of course, lacks funds for daily operations."
Mummart added there is an official process through which the agency accepts and accounts for donations, and it lacks the staff to conduct such a screening.
"So, while we truly appreciate the offers of support, and the spirit in which they are intended, they are not offers we can accept," she wrote.
In an earlier statement, NPS spokeswoman Carol Johnson said the "Honor Flights" of World War II veterans "are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks."
DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee for his part, called Priebus’s event a “silly stunt.”
“We’ve already been working on a plan to open the memorial — and the entire government — after the GOP caused them to close,” Elleithee said. “It’s called a clean funding resolution, and it sounds like the votes are there if the speaker would just call for a vote."