White House cancels tours over sequester cuts, as lawmakers call decision political

Published March 05, 2013

| FoxNews.com

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. 

Fox News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report. 

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http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/05/white-house-cancels-tours-citing-sequester/