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More sequester pain: White House cancels tours
By Stephen Dinan – The Washington Times
“…The White House announced Tuesday that it was canceling all public tours of the president’s home because of the sequester spending cuts.
“Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours,” the White House said in an email.
The notice comes as both the White House and Congress try to find cuts to their own budgets as part of $85 billion in cuts to the entire government.
As President Obama was returning from visiting wounded veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center, a reporter shouted a question about the decision to cancel the tours as Mr. Obama was walking from Marine One to the Oval Office.
He simply smiled and waved.
At the Capitol, staffers who use the building’s West Front entrance that looks out on the National Mall were told Tuesday that door would be closed as of next week in order to save money. …”
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Tours of the executive mansion will be canceled starting March 9, the White House announced, citing “staffing reductions resulting from sequestration.” The tours will not be rescheduled and the freeze will be in effect “until further notice.”
The cancellation will annoy plenty of tourists who tour the White House after securing their tickets well in advance through their elected representative’s office. It will also certainly annoy those congressional offices that must begin notifying disappointed constituents.
“We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season,” the White House said in a recorded message on the tour hotline.
Within hours of the announcement, Republicans began to criticize the decision as a stunt. One GOP congressman offered his own solution to the budget cutting at the White House. In an amendment to a bill to fund the government, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert proposed that none of the money “may be used to transport the president to or from a golf course until public tours of the White House resume.”
The automatic budget cuts are a result of a deficit-reduction deal signed into law in 2011. Lawmakers and the White House agreed to the across-the-board cuts, hoping that the prospect of finding $85 billion in immediate savings would spark compromise on a broader deficit and debt-reduction deal. It did not.
In the lead-up to the budget cuts, which kicked in on Friday, the White House tried to pressure Republican lawmakers to reach a deal by highlighting the pain that would come from axing federal services. But its top spokespeople on the matter occasionally overstepped. …”
White House cancels tours over sequester cuts, as lawmakers call decision political
“…Sorry, Washington-bound spring-breakers. Your White House tours have been canceled.
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will cancel all tours starting this weekend, due to sequester cuts. The move prompted swift condemnation from Republican lawmakers, who described the decision as the latest attempt to make the sequester seem worse than it is.
“It’s politically motivated,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told Fox News. “It seems childish — take my ball and go home.”
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, declared in a statement that “the people have been banned from the people’s house.”
The announcement is the latest from the administration about the impact of the cuts that went into effect last Friday. Congressional staffers received a terse email saying White House tours would be canceled effective this Saturday.
The email cited “staffing reductions” from the sequester.
“Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours,” the notice said. “We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season.”
White House tours, which are self-guided, are typically scheduled through members of Congress. Visitors can request a tour through their representative up to six months in advance.
Anyone arriving after Saturday, though, is in for a disappointment.
A recorded message on the White House visitor’s hotline Tuesday confirmed that the tours will soon be nixed until “further notice.”
A senior administration official later explained to Fox News that the cancellation arose from Secret Service staffing decisions. According to the Secret Service, officers normally assigned to the public tours are being reassigned to other posts. The Service says the move will reduce costs and “ultimately reduce the number of potential furloughs necessary by our agency.”
Cramer said if he were to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, he could see White House tours being on the list of nonessential items. He said he doesn’t think they’ll close the White House to the public forever.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said the decision is just a bid to pressure Republican members to change course on the sequester — he said it would not be successful.
But Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, told Fox News this is another reason why both sides should figure out a compromise. She said the closure of White House tours will be “alarming” for children coming to D.C. for spring break.
The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival also attracts droves of tourists in late March and early April, though the White House can no longer be on their itinerary.
The administration has announced a raft of expected cutbacks in response to the sequester. The Defense Department, and other federal agencies, are planning to furlough thousands of workers to save money. Congress also announced that it would cut back on foreign travel.
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