White House tours succumb to sequester

March 6, 2013 at 3:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday President Barack Obama was "trying to make it tough" on Congress by canceling White House tours.

Administration officials said public tours will be canceled beginning Saturday due to the automatic $85 billion in across-the-board cuts to federal spending. Members of Congress, whose offices set up public tours of the White House, were notified of the change in an email Tuesday.

During an interview Wednesday on CNBC, Boehner said public tours of the Capitol were not affected by the spending cuts, and suggested the administration is playing politics by canceling White House tours.

"The president is trying to make it tough on members of Congress," Boehner said. "It's just silly. I want to know who is being laid off at the White House. The Capitol is open for tours. We've been planning for this for months."

"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," the White House email to members of Congress said. "Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours. We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season."

"So much for the most open administration in history," a congressional GOP aide told Politico. "I guess the only way for the public to visit the White House now is to donate to Organizing for Action," the president's non-profit organization.

A House aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Roll Call the cancellation "creates a constituent relations nightmare" for members of Congress, who must inform constituents of the change.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, suggested the White House was deploying what's known in the Capitol as the Washington Monument strategy -- using the threat of shutting down popular attractions as leverage to get budget cuts reversed.

"I understand the strategy of the administration: They're trying to make it as ugly as possible to put as much pressure as possible on Republicans to change their position," Simpson said. "It's just not going to happen."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, introduced an amendment to a spending bill barring use of funds in the bill to transport the president to a golf course until public White House tours resume, Roll Call said.

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