President Obama is asking the U.S. Senate to confirm Sylvia Mathews Murwell 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.
Burwell is currently directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). During October’s partial government shutdown, Burwell made the call for the National Park Service to shutter it’s 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 and Korean memorials 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.
“The fact that 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. 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.”
Ward says the whole episode shows the depths to which the Obama administration would sink to win a political debate, and whether Burwell or President Obama is ultimately to blame doesn’t really matter.
“The blame at the time went to the president, and rightly so. (The orders) probably came from on high. The fact of the matter is she was in charge of making the call. It might have been her idea. We do know that the barricades went up minutes after the government shut down so it was planned and it was reprehensible and idiotic. Let’s call it for what it is,” said Ward.
“There was nothing to be gained by shutting down open-air memorials. The government spent more money shutting them down and guarding them than they would have if they had just left them open and let our veterans go to their memorials,” said Ward.
According to Ward, whether Burwell ordered the memorial shut on her own volition or was simply following orders, she is unfit for higher office either way.
“She either has a lot of malcontent, has a lot of evil inside her or she’s just an Obamabot. Either way, we don’t want that person representing the nation’s health care. We need somebody who can stand on their own and make decisions that affect the entire country’s health and well being, not someone who is going to either have political payback for spite or for whatever reasons that they put these barricades up or just follow orders as the king on high declares,” said Ward.
While the exact strategy is being worked out, Ward says Special Operations Speaks is planning an aggressive opposition to the Burwell nomination.
“Absolutely, and you’ll hear this first,” said Ward. ”We’re planning on hosting a human barricade in front of the Senate at the time of her confirmation hearings.”
Ward adds that military veterans are very reticent to get active in politics but the members of Special Operations Speaks feel they have no choice.
“They’ve gotten political with this administration because of the reprehensible behavior they have towards our military and our veterans. If need be, we’ll rip down barricades every single day and throw them at the White House the way we did at the Million Vet March,” said Ward.