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.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.