Obama talked to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. He said the Secret Service -- whose responsibilities include guarding the president, his family and the White House -- did not consult the administration but decided potential furloughs because of the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester meant the personnel was not available to allow the tours.
The estimated cost of public tours of the White House is $74,000 a week with total savings through September of about $2 million.
The president said he was trying to get exceptions for special circumstances.
"Well, what I'm asking them is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups -- you know, who may have traveled here with some bake sales," he said. "Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?
"I'm always amused when people on the one hand say the sequester doesn't mean anything and the administration's exaggerating its effects, and then whatever the specific effects are, they yell and scream and say, 'Why are you doing that?' Well, there are consequences to Congress not having come up with a more sensible way to reduce the deficit," Obama said.