Is it a political ploy or a necessary casualty of the sequester?
For weeks, President Obama has been warning that the $85 billion in budget cuts required by the sequester would be an undue hardship on the country. Despite his objections, the president was forced to sign the sequester into effect last Friday.
This week, in response to those cuts, the White House has canceled upcoming tours, starting this weekend.
"Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House tours will be canceled effective Saturday March 9th, 2013 until further notice," says a phone recording for the info line for White House visitors. "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."
I have been through the process of requesting White House tour tickets twice. It's a complicated affair requiring detailed information about each member of the tour party and must be completed months in advance of the proposed tour date. Even with all of this preparation, you are not guaranteed a ticket. Neither of my attempts have been successful. So I can only imagine how disappointing it must be for folks who have jumped through the hoops and planned for months for their White House tour, only to be told at this late date that the tour has been canceled.
Is it a necessary staff reduction, or a ploy by the White House to pressure Congress into repealing the sequester? It's anyone's guess. But Republicans have come down hard on the White House decision to cancel tours and sent out their own press release reminding the American people that plenty of tour tickets are available for the Capital.