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Entries in Tours (4)

Wednesday
Mar132013

Obama Considers Resuming White House Tours for School Groups

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Four days after shuttering the White House to the public to cut costs, President Obama says he’s asking the U.S. Secret Service about the possibility of resuming tours for school groups, which have begun descending on the nation’s capital for spring break.

“What I’m asking them is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups … who may have traveled here with some bake sales,” Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Good Morning America.  “Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?”

Obama’s comments suggested, contrary to previous statements by the administration, that the decision to scrap the tours fell solely to the Secret Service.

“I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House,” Obama said in the interview.  “But what the Secret Service explained to us was that they’re going to have to furlough some folks."

“The question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we’ve got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck, who suddenly are seeing a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in their pay,” he said.

An administration official, seeking to clarify the president’s remarks, stressed that the decision to cancel the tours never came to the Oval Office, but that it was ultimately made by White House staff.

“In order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week.

Secret Service officials also told ABC News that the decision to cancel the tours was made by the White House, although the agency first proposed the move as a possible cost-saving measure.  The Secret Service has to cut $84 million because of so-called sequestration; canceling public tours saves $74,000 per week, the agency said.

“I’m always amused when people on the one hand say the sequester doesn’t mean anything and the administration’s exaggerating its effects; and then whatever the specific effects are, they yell and scream and say, ‘Why are you doing that?’  Well, there are consequences to Congress not having come up with a more sensible way to reduce the deficit,” Obama said.

One group of sixth-graders from Waverly, Iowa, which had planned to tour the White House later this week, has launched a grassroots lobbying campaign to pressure lawmakers and the administration to open the doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

A new website produced by the students -- “The White House is OUR HOUSE” -- urges people to call and email the administration to reinstate the tours and features a catchy web video they hope will go viral.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar122013

Donald Trump Suggests He'll Fund White House Tours

Mike Stobe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- If White House tours resume before the sequester issue is resolved then visitors might have Donald Trump to thank.

Last week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich floated the idea that Trump could afford to pay for the tours, estimated at about $74,000 a week, "to show who cares more for American students."

Interviewed Monday on Fox News' Fox & Friends, the real estate magnate and host of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice seemed open to the idea when asked, saying, "It sounds reasonable to me.  Why not?"

As for why the Obama administration decided to cancel the White House tours, one of the top things to do on any visit to D.C., Trump theorized, "I guess it’s political.  They want to hurt the people…If you look at what’s going on, I guess they’re trying to make a political point.  It’s just really ridiculous.  I don’t think it’s a big deal, frankly.  But it does make us look awfully bad and awfully pathetic."

The administration says the tours were suspended due to the sequester that took effect on March 1.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Kids Tell Washington: ‘The White House Is Our House! Please Let Us Visit!’

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hundreds of school kids who have dreamed of visiting the White House on their spring break are now dealing with disappointment.  Their plans have been dashed.

Less than 24 hours after the Obama administration canceled all White House tours indefinitely, parents and children from across the country have been speaking out about their frustration with Washington’s sequester.

Their message to lawmakers?  “The White House is our house! Please let us visit!” chanted a group of a dozen sixth graders from Waverly, Iowa, on a call with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.

The group from St. Paul’s Lutheran School, just outside Cedar Falls, received the news of their canceled tour from the office of Rep. Bruce Bailey (D-IA) earlier Wednesday. They are headed for Washington a week from Friday, after months of fundraising and building excitement.

“It’s a major disappointment for them,” said Karen Thalacker, the mother of 12-year-old Malcom Newell, who was to go along. “Our kids have done everything we have asked them to do and more. Now for us to say something out of our control is making their White House trip impossible is really disappointing.”

Thalacker said the 16 sixth-graders are now launching a Facebook campaign to get the White House to open the doors.

“We’re not here to pick sides about who’s right and who’s wrong. We’d just like the people’s house to stay open so that not just our group but groups all across the country can come and visit the White House,” she told ABC News. “It’s very important. They’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. And unfortunately they may remember that this is a sign of their government if they didn’t get to go.”

That sentiment was shared by kids, parents and would-be chaperones all across the country in interviews with ABC News.

“My daughter is so upset we’re shut out of White House tour for her seventh birthday this month,” said Cobey Dietrich of Bel Air, Md.  “She even dressed as president of the United States for career dress-up day!”

Rhonda Helms of North Olmsted, Ohio, said her teenage children — Bryan, 13, and Shelby, 16 — excitedly applied for a White House tour six months ago through the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).  Now, their trip in the first week of April will be missing what was to be its biggest highlight.

“Obviously, we doubt the situation will be resolved by the time of our visit to D.C. Very disappointing, to say the least,” Helms said. “I guess the closest we’ll get to the inside is watching The West Wing.”

Tamera Penning, a mother of two from Iowa City who home-schools her kids, said the situation is “very hard to understand.”

Penning and her daughters, ages 7 and 10, had been eagerly anticipating a walk through the White House’s historic halls later this month. Now, their tour is canceled — one of four arranged through the office of Rep. Dave Lobesack (D-IA) in Iowa’s 2nd congressional district.

“I don’t know why both sides can’t figure this out,” she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar052013

White House Tours Cancelled Due to Sequester Cuts

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- There are about to be a lot of unhappy tourists in the nation’s capital. The White House is canceling all public tours of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a result of the sequester spending cuts, a senior administration official confirms.

“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,” according to a cancellation notice that was sent to congressional offices.

Tourists go through their local representatives to arrange visits to the White House, which means every member of Congress will feel the impact of these cuts as they explain the cancellation to their constituents.

The cancellations come right at the start of the busy spring break tourist season. “We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season,” the notice from the White House Visitors Office said.

Congressional aides are already up in arms about this announcement from the White House. When asked about the impact of the decision, one Republican Hill staffer offered this pointed observation:

    “This move by the White House is completely vindictive and unnecessary, meant to direct blame for the sequester away from the administration and instead, onto the underpaid and overworked staff assistants and tour coordinators on Capitol Hill who work to ensure their constituents enjoy their visits to Washington, D.C. They think they may be hurting Congressional Republicans. That is, after all, their stated purpose. But in reality, they are only making life more difficult for some of the worst paid folks on Capitol Hill who must now call disappointed constituents and notify them that their vacation plans are ruined. They may think they’re punishing Members, but in reality, the folks who will suffer are the constituents and the unfortunate staffers who must break the news to them.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio