Photo: White House (WhiteHouse.gov)
The White House regretted having to cancel the public’s access to guided tours of the presidential mansion due to the $85 billion in cutbacks that took effect last week as part of the so-called sequester, and blamed it on Congress.
“And we are obviously disappointed about that kind of decision, but it would have been far better, in our view, if Congress had taken action to delay the sequester,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in response to a question at his daily press briefing.
“The fact is the Secret Service, like other agencies of government, is affected by the sequester,” he told reporters.
“And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours,” the spokesman said.
A large part of these White House visits are organized by the offices of members of Congress and, following the decision on Tuesday, congressional staffers had the job of telling their voters about the cancelation of such events.
The White House decision was criticized by several Republican leaders including House Speaker John Boehner, who said that despite the cuts, the Capitol will remain open to tourists.
Nonetheless, Carney said that, for now, the White House intends to go ahead with its traditional Easter Egg Roll.
The cancelation of the visits sparked protests from a student group at a Lutheran school in Iowa, scheduled to visit the White House on March 16.
In a video posted on Facebook, the students say: “The White House is our house. Please let us visit.”