Administration says White House tours will resume

South Portico Balcony of the White House, April 9, 2012

South Portico Balcony of the White House, April 9, 2012  (whitehouse.gov)

The Obama administration announced Friday that White House tours will resume, on a limited basis, seven months after they were suspended due to the "sequester" spending cuts. 

The announcement was made in a mass email to congressional offices. The tours were originally cancelled in March in response to across-the-board spending cuts -- the email offered no explanation as to how the administration found the money to resume them, though officials later said the fact that a new fiscal year had started freed up some funds.  

The decision also comes just two days after Congress voted for a funding bill that ended the partial government shutdown. 

The email to congressional offices said: "We are pleased to announce that the White House will be reopening for limited Public Tours of the East Wing and Executive Residence." 

According to the announcement, they will start scheduling tour requests for Nov. 5 and beyond. 

"At this time, the White House Tour System is fully functional and requests will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis," the email said, adding that previous requests will remain in the system, but "we are unable to reschedule any tours that were canceled due to sequestration." 

The original decision to suspend the White House tours drew outrage from members of Congress, several of whom accused the administration of overreacting to the sequester spending cuts -- and canceling tours to make the cuts more painful than they had to be. Similar accusations were lobbed at the administration during the recent partial shutdown. 

But the administration at the time said the decision was made due to Secret Service concerns about the cost of keeping the tours staffed. 

The Secret Service explained Friday that because a new fiscal year has begun -- on Oct. 1 -- the agency has more flexibility to afford to restart the tours. 

"Sequestration came midway through the fiscal year and we were unable to reallocate remaining funds while ensuring funds remained for operations and avoided furloughing employees," spokesman Robert Novy said in a statement. "In light of the new fiscal year, the Secret Service is confident that through the new [funding bill] we can operate at reduced funding levels while still meeting our operational requirements." 

One source said it's unclear whether the tours will continue past Jan. 15, which is when the current stopgap spending bill expires.

Aside from resuming tours, the White House is now also reopening its gardens and grounds to visitors on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27. 

Fox News' Wes Barrett contributed to this report.