White House cancels tours due to sequester

9:44 PM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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By David Jackson and Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

The White House announced Tuesday it is canceling public tours starting this weekend because of the sequestration.

The tours will stop after Friday, according to a recording on the White House visitors information line.

"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 recording 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."

The tours will stop a week after the onset of the sequester, $85 billion in automatic budget cuts over the next seven months.

U.S. Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary explained that cancelling the tours will allow for uniformed officers normally assigned to public tours to be reassigned to other security posts at the White House.

"This staffing measure will reduce overtime costs overall and may ultimately reduce the number of potential furloughs necessary by our agency," Leary said.

President Obama and congressional Republicans are at odds over an alternative to the across-the-board cuts that affect defense and domestic programs.

Obama is seeking a new debt reduction agreement with targeted cuts and new tax revenues to be gained by closing loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

Republican leaders oppose new taxes and say any new debt deal should be cuts only.

GOP members, who have accused the administration of exaggerating the impact of the sequester, also criticized the White House announcement of canceled tours.

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus tweeted that it is a "childish move by (a) flailing WH."

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., cited Obama's recent Florida in a tweet: "Obama can enjoy his golf vacation, but your family's vacation is subject to sequester."

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