- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The head of the National Park Service said Tuesday that signs blaming service cuts on budget sequesters are inappropriate and should be taken down.

Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis told a congressional panel that the sequesters have caused his agency to make some difficult cuts that are noticeable to park visitors. But when a Republican lawmaker said signs have been posted blaming sequesters for the pain, Mr. Jarvis responded by saying he “would instruct the parks to take those down.”

House Republicans called the hearing to look at how three venerable public institutions — the Park Service, the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution — are handling the budget sequesters, particularly around the nation’s capital where they have a major presence.

Some Democrats said that in light of the Boston Marathon bombings, Congress should cancel part of the sequesters to make sure security doesn’t suffer.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said lawmakers need to revisit the cuts before major upcoming events, such as the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall.

“These events must go on, and I am not convinced that with these services and these police agencies not able to move around money, that we will have in place the same kinds of security that we have had in the past,” Mrs. Norton said.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, asked the Smithsonian to consider beginning to charge admission fees, and told the Park Service it should no longer sell a lifetime membership pass to senior citizens.

G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian, said neither he nor his board is in favor of charging admission.

“The American people paid for the buildings, they paid for the collections, and I don’t think they should have to pay a third time to get in,” he said.

The sequesters — $85 billion in budget cuts this year, to be followed by similar cuts ever year for the rest of this decade — have been contentious in Washington. President Obama called for canceling the cuts but rejected an offer from House Republicans to have flexibility to move money around.

That left many in the GOP wondering whether the White House would make the cuts more painful to make a political point.

Republicans held up the Archives, which began preparing for budget cuts two years ago, as an example of how an agency could prepare. They contrasted that with the Park Service, which they accused of being late in preparing for the sequesters.

All three agency heads testified Tuesday that they were not told to make the cuts painful, and that they are doing what they can to shield the public.

“We have not instructed anyone to intentionally make this painful to the public,” Mr. Jarvis said.

One Democrat, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, took issue with Mr. Jarvis’ statement that there shouldn’t be signs explaining that the sequesters were responsible for park closures.

“Don’t give away those signs too fast. I think you should put up those signs,” said the Virginia lawmaker, even offering to help paint and post them. “The public should know what’s happening. The public should not be shielded from the fact there are consequences from sequestration.”

He said it was Republicans during the 2012 campaign who warned of the potential damage caused by sequester cuts, particularly to defense programs. But now the GOP argues that the administration is making the cuts more damaging than needed.

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