The Sequester Cuts’ Impact Goes Deeper Than White House Tours

The debate over sequestration this week has raised questions whether the administration was exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and whether there was a necessity to shut down White House tours because of them.

The sequestration had become the emergency issue at the White House briefings, a constant matter of discussions on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. Photo: John McNally/Flickr

House Speaker John Boehner even mentioned it at a press briefing this week, saying: “I think it’s silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own.”

White House staff recently sent out emails canceling all tours starting today, as a result of sequestration triggered because leaders couldn’t agree on a better way to cut federal spending.

Critics have already commented on the issue, calling the taken decision as the wrong thing one and nothing more than a way to make headlines.

“It is deeply troubling and disturbingly ironic that this president, whose own website says that it is his mission to ‘open up the house to as many people as possible’ is choosing to prevent the American people from accessing the White House,” said U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican whose district stretches from Tarrant to Travis counties.

“For many Americans, a family or school trip to our nation’s Capitol is a once-in-a-lifetime event. To cancel all public tours, essentially closing the doors of the White House, is wrong. This is nothing more than a publicity stunt, as it requires minimal federal dollars to allow the public access to the White House,” he said.

“If the President was serious about cutting spending, he would negotiate in good faith with Congress to find more desirable solutions.”

Federal officials counted that cancelling the tours will save about $74,000 a week as the White House doesn’t have to pay the salaries for more than three dozen Secret Service officers to guard the building during tours.

The recent White House letter noted that “our office has no control over this decision, and we have not been provided any information that indicates when tours may resume.”

Officials offered help in booking tours at other most attended by tourists locations, including the Library of Congress, Pentagon, Supreme Court and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner wants people to know that public tours of the Capitol will continue.

“The president is trying to make it tough on members of Congress,” Boehner has said. “It’s just silly.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said the cancellation of tours is unfortunate and will impact residents in his district as well, reports Star-Telegram.

“This cancellation is part of a larger problem having to do with Republicans refusing to compromise,” he said. “Republican leadership has done nothing to stop the sequester and as a result, families across the country are hurting every day.”

Williams said his office is happy to keep helping arranging tours of the Capitol and other landmarks “regardless of any reductions in our office budget.”

And U.S. Rep. Joe Barton posted notes on his Facebook page after learning about the tour cancellations.

“The White House Tours are self guided and the White House belongs to the people,” Barton said. “I do not think sequestration materially affects the staffing of the White House in terms of guards, security, etc.

“This act seems to me to be more of a political statement than a true requirement of sequestration,” he added.

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