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Lawmakers Gripe After White House Cancels Tours Because of Sequester

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, decided to register his opposition legislatively. He introduced an amendment to the continuing resolution scheduled to be voted on Wednesday that would prohibit any funds in the bill from being used to transport the president to a golf course until White House tours resume.

House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., defended the decision as part of necessary cutbacks in the face of the sequester.

“This is what happens when you cut the budget so deeply and so quickly, as opposed to how we’ve done it,” he said. “You’re going to see disruptions increasing.”

Members found out about the cancellations Tuesday afternoon in an email sent from the White House Visitors Office.

“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. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours,” the notice read. “We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season.”

The same message can be heard on the visitors office’s automated hotline.

The House Administration Committee tried to make the best of the situation, tweeting just after the announcement: “White House cancels tours over sequestration; House Admin welcomes Americans visiting D.C. to tour Capitol instead.”

The committee announced that it will hold a briefing Friday to educate congressional offices about alternative tour destinations near the Capitol, such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress.

Chatter in the halls of the Capitol was glib. It has become almost commonplace in recent years, but security staff and tour guides again wondered aloud whether their jobs would be compromised because Republicans and Democrats cannot settle their disputes.

On Tuesday morning, House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., briefed a closed-door Republican Conference meeting, detailing cuts to member and committee office budgets as well as potential security cutbacks that will have to be put in place, according to sources in the room.

The security concerns could include allowing fewer overtime hours for the Capitol Police and closing certain entrances to the Capitol complex to relieve the guards stationed there.

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