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Government, Politics & Issues

Nixon, Blunt, McCaskill push to reopen the Arch for baseball fans

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 11, 2013 - Gov. Jay Nixon and both of Missouri’s U.S. senators are out to reopen the Gateway Arch because of the attention St. Louis is getting with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship series.

The Arch – which is operated by the National Parks Service – has been closed since Oct. 1 because of the federal government shutdown. While tourists can still walk around the monument’s grounds, they haven’t been able to go up into the structure or visit the Old Courthouse.

In a joint statement Friday night, U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said they were talking with the U.S. Interior Department “to allow the Arch to open for playoff weekend — if the state can identify either private or public funding to pay the expenses.”

The Cardinals are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Nixon earlier had announced that he was directing his administration “to develop a proposal for reopening National Park Service assets” in the state, including the Arch and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in southern Missouri.

The three – two Democrats and one Republican – sought to avoid the partisan fight over the shutdown, while emphasizing their common interest in putting the state in the best light during Major League Baseball’s marquee fall events.

“The Gateway Arch attracts thousands of visitors each week, and many of the surrounding businesses thrive off of the tourism it brings to St. Louis,” Blunt said in a statement. “With baseball playoffs this weekend, it’s especially important that we do everything we can to get this monument reopened to visitors, and Sen. McCaskill and I are working to make that happen.”

McCaskill added it’s “very important for local jobs and businesses in St. Louis that the Arch be open for playoff weekend if possible.”

“The Arch being closed is one of many economic challenges facing Missouri as a result of the shutdown that we’re working to end,” McCaskill said. “In addition to efforts on many other fronts, Sen. Blunt and I are working together to give the state the option of finding funding to open up the park this weekend, which would pay dividends for the community as a whole.”

Said Nixon:  “These parks and riverways are national treasures that draw millions of visitors each year and generate significant economic activity for our state. That is why I have directed members of my administration to develop a proposal to reopen these important assets, including the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, so that families and visitors can continue to enjoy these iconic parks and monuments even if the federal government shutdown continues.”

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, also lauded any plans to reopen the Arch and other federal park sites. But her statement focused primarily on who was to blame for the dispute, which began when the GOP-controlled U.S. House passed a continuing budget resolution that initially hinged on a requirement that the Affordable Care Act be repealed or defunded.

The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected that idea, as did President Barack Obama. With neither side budging, most of the federal government shut down on Oct. 1.

Since then, the House has approved bills to open parts of the government, but the Senate has maintained that all of the government must be reopened.

Said Wagner, in part: “In fact, the House passed a bill last week that would keep the St. Louis Arch open and stop (Senate leader) Harry Reid from playing politics with the American people. Rather than keeping the government open and providing essential services to all Americans, Senate Democrats have decided it would be easier to blame House Republicans, instead of doing their jobs. It’s time we stop playing political brinksmanship with the American people and come together to get the job done.”

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