WASHINGTON -- House Republicans have refused to vote on a bill to reopen the federal government, with no strings attached. Instead, they want to reopen only parts of the government, while continuing to push for face-saving concessions from President Barack Obama.
The GOP's piecemeal approach would fund services for some of the shutdown's most visible victims, thus blunting some of the criticisms the party has received for its refusal to budge and pass a clean continuing resolution. They have proposed funding the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health and the national parks, for example.
But a new ad from the advocacy group VoteVets argues that such an approach is bad for veterans. It features Redge Ranyard, a 90-year-old World War II Navy veteran.
Responding to House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) comment that the GOP is locked in an "epic battle" over funding the government, Ranyard replies, "I was in six epic battles, fighting the Nazis. Congressmen, your shutdown is not an epic battle. It’s bad governance." (Watch the ad above.)
Ranyard receives pension checks from the VA, which will stop going out if the shutdown continues. But he told The Huffington Post that the GOP approach amid the government shutdown is flawed because veterans don't live in a vacuum, simply relying on services from the VA alone.
"They rely on nearly every department, from the Department of Education, to Housing and Urban Development, and so on, to help veterans out with what we, as a nation, owe them," he said. "This whole silliness about funding bits and pieces of the government is like sticking fingers in a dike. ... It is important to me that you know that my interests are not limited to veterans. The homeless, hungry, in need of medical care, also are my concern."
Veterans are affected by the shutdown in ways that extend beyond the VA and war memorials, since they make up nearly 30 percent of the federal workforce. About 800,000 federal employees are currently being furloughed. They will receive back pay only if Congress authorizes it, and even then, their paychecks won't come until after the government reopens.
Last week, lawmakers rushed to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. after hearing that a group of Honor Flight veterans were unable to get to the memorial because of the shutdown. They took photos at the site, and Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) attempted to gain some political points by castigating a park ranger and blaming her for blocking the veterans from the site, which was closed because of Congress.
Ranyard, who has taken place in Honor Flight and visited the memorial, wasn't convinced by the display.
"They were dishonoring the memory of those who died in World War II," he said. "You don’t use the memories of fallen troops as a political prop. I found it utterly repugnant, and it is why I felt so compelled to be in this ad."
Veterans who spoke with The Huffington Post last week at the World War II Memorial agreed with Ranyard's call to reopen the entire federal government.
Ranyard also criticized Rep. Phil Gingrey's (R-Ga.) comment that the government shutdown was Republicans' "Braveheart" moment.
"What is this obsession with equating their efforts to keep the government closed with military and battle imagery? Anyway, as I recall, William Wallace fought to help his people, not keep them suffering," Ranyard said. "The government shutdown, and the GOP fight to keep it closed, hurts people. I think Republicans ought to pick up a history book, once in a while. It seems to me like they could stand to learn a few things, if they’re interested."
The cost of the VoteVets ad is $100,000 and it will be running on national cable.
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