WASHINGTON — The White House has been struggling to highlight cutbacks at federal agencies now that the so-called sequester has hit. On Tuesday, it found one close to home.
Tours of the executive mansion will be canceled starting Saturday, the White House announced, citing "staffing reductions resulting from sequestration." The tours will not be rescheduled and the freeze will be in effect "until further notice."
The cancellation will annoy plenty of tourists who tour the White House after securing their tickets well in advance through their elected representative's office. It will also certainly annoy those congressional offices that must begin notifying disappointed constituents.
"We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season," the White House said in a recorded message on the tour hotline.
Within hours of the announcement, Republicans began to criticize the decision as a stunt. One GOP congressman offered his own solution to the budget cutting at the White House. In an amendment to a bill to fund the government, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert proposed that none of the money "may be used to transport the president to or from a golf course until public tours of the White House resume."
The automatic budget cuts are a result of a deficit-reduction deal signed into law in 2011. Lawmakers and the White House agreed to the across-the-board cuts, hoping that the prospect of finding $85 billion in immediate savings would spark compromise on a broader deficit and debt-reduction deal. It did not.
The budget cuts kicked in on Friday.