Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Issa Says He’s Never Voted to Shut Down the Government

Senate leaders are to blame, he says, as parks advocates warn of damage.

The former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel on Wednesday denied any responsibility for the current budget stalemate that risks a government shutdown. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said he has “never voted for a shutdown and never will,” noting he consistently votes for bills that would keep the government open, but that stall in the Senate.

Issa told reporters at the Data Transparency Coalition conference in Washington that “the president’s lack of leadership” and Senate’s failure to take up six House-passed spending bills “are a disservice. I say to [Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, [R-Ky.] and [Minority Leader Harry] Reid, [D-Nev.], “Shame on your body.” Issa promised not to leave town if the government does shut down and to vote every day. “I hope all House speakers in the future commit to passing all the appropriations bills,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association released a letter it sent to all members of Congress warning that an Oct. 1 shutdown “would significantly harm national parks and cost millions in lost revenue for local communities.”

Noting that next year will mark the 100 th anniversary celebration of the National Park Service, the group reminded lawmakers that the closure of parks during the 16-day shutdown in 2013 was a major setback. Many Republicans -- Issa among them -- two years ago disagreed with the Park Service’s interpretation of the Anti-Deficiency Act and argued that the federally owned parking lot at Mount Vernon (privately owned), for example, should remain open, along with the memorials on the National Mall.

The government shutdown, the association said, turned away almost eight million visitors and cost local communities nearly a half billion dollars. A 2015 shutdown  could mean as much as $42 million in visitor spending would be lost every day at a time when the park system is experiencing record-breaking attendance, the letter noted. The Park Service has experienced budget cuts of 7 percent during the past five years and tallies an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog, according to the group.

“Today the shutdown would once again be a sad chapter in the struggle to adequately fund our nation’s needs, including America’s national parks,” wrote association President Clark Bunting. “A government shutdown only brings into focus the families, communities, businesses and dedicated park rangers who struggle while our national treasures are shuttered.”

His group urged “swift passage of a bipartisan continuing resolution clean of environmentally damaging policy riders, followed by a committed bipartisan effort to enact a budget deal that replaces the sequester and allows for the needed restoration of funding for the National Park Service in fiscal year 2016.”