Sen. John Thune leads group of GOP senators questioning suspension of White House tours

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See news release and letter from GOP senators below and post your thoughts on the suspension of public White House tours…

Thune Leads Group in Questioning Suspension of White House Public Tours

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, today sent a letter along with several of his colleagues to President Obama questioning the White House’s decision to suspend public tours due to the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. Joining Thune in sending this letter were Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

According to information released earlier this week by the administration, White House tours will be suspended as early as March 9, 2013. The White House cited staffing reductions resulting from sequestration as the reason for suspending White House tours. Thune’s letter seeks information regarding the anticipated cost savings of these actions, and also requests information on the number of White House personnel who are assigned to the Visitors Office and whether or not this policy will result in lay-offs, furloughs, and/or pay cuts.

“Self-guided tours at the White House are not the kind of duplicative and wasteful spending that we should be looking to target and the suspension of these tours reeks of political calculation,” said Thune. “Instead of closing the doors of the White House to the American public, the president should look to cut his own wasteful golf outings and frivolous spending.”

White House tours have occurred on and off since the Coolidge administration. Tours ceased during World War II, and for a short time following the assassination of President Kennedy, and the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The text of the Senators’ letter is below:

March 7, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama

The President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500-0005

Dear Mr. President:

We are disappointed and concerned about your decision to suspend public tours due to sequestration.  Every spring, thousands of students, families, and tour groups flock to Washington, D.C. to experience all of the history and sights our nation’s capital city has to offer.  To arbitrarily shut off access to a taxpayer funded, historical building, such as the White House, is disappointing.

All branches of government are impacted by sequestration.  Like the White House, Congress is also facing cuts to our operating budgets.  Yet to take a measure such as shutting down public access to a national treasure must be done with careful consideration.

According to the White House Visitors Office, White House tours will be suspended as early as March 9, 2013.  We are requesting additional information on the anticipated cost savings of suspending self-guided tours of the White House as of March 9, 2013.  While we have seen reports that the Secret Service believes this will help prevent furloughs for agents, we would like information on the number of White House personnel who are assigned to the Visitors Office and whether or not this policy will result in lay-offs, furloughs, and/or pay cuts.  We would also like to know what additional cost-saving measures the White House has planned to mitigate its budget cut under the sequester.

We all need to work together to improve this country’s fiscal outlook.  However, the White House’s decision to close public access to the residence of the United States President is not the solution.  We look forward to your expedient response to our concerns.

Sincerely,

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