President Obama is asking the U.S. Senate to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the next leader of the Department of Health and Human Services, but at least one veterans organization is vowing to do everything it can to block her path to the president’s Cabinet – including blocking the Senate with a “human barricade.”
Burwell is currently director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB.
During October’s partial government shutdown, Burwell sent the memo for the National Park Service to shutter its public attractions, including open-air memorials in Washington such as the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
That decision made the World War II Memorial a flash point of controversy during the shutdown, as elderly veterans coming to the nation’s capital on Honor Flights were turned away by barricades.
Members of Congress and veterans groups soon began removing the barricades to allow veterans access to their memorials. Eventually, the government allowed World War II veterans into their memorial, but the general public was left out. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial were closed to everyone.
“The only reason they reversed themselves (on the World War II Memorial) is because there was a public outcry,” said Special Operations Speaks Political Director Larry Ward, whose group was actively involved in the Million Vet March demanding the memorials be re-opened.
“There were flights coming in with 90-year-old men who served our country and saved the world, the Greatest Generation, were coming in to see the World War II Memorial, probably for the last time that they could in their lives, and they were turned away for political spite,” he said. “It’s one of the most reprehensible acts any commander in chief or any bureau head like, Sylvia ‘Barricade’ Burwell, has ever done in the history of this country.”