White House Tours Coming Back on Limited Schedule
(CNN) — After being closed for eight months, the White House tours will start back up again on a limited schedule.
Visitors can start touring the East Wing and Executive Residence starting November 5, the White House announced Friday.
The White House canceled public tours after a series of forced, automatic budget cuts–formally known as sequestration–went into effect on March 1, shortly before the tourism season typically blooms in Washington, D.C. The tours have been closed since March 9.
In the spring, the reaction to the ending of the tours was fierce. Republicans accused the White House of unnecessarily shutting its doors as a political ploy to draw up negative attention over the cuts, and then blame Republicans.
“This is nonsense,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and now co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire,” said at the time.” “This is punishing the American people.”
“The president will use up more Secret Service time guarding him while he golfs than it would take to keep the White House tours open all year,” he argued.
He wasn’t the only one. Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas submitted an amendment to a funding measure in the House that would require the president to stop golfing until the White House resumed the tours.
The U.S. Secret Service said in March the plan to nix the tours would save the agency save $74,000 per week – or $2 million in the next seven months. That’s how much it costs to pay 37 uniformed officers $50 an hour for 40 hours a week to secure the tour’s route through the East Wing.
“Last year’s sequestration came midway through the fiscal year,” U.S. Secret Service Spokesman Brian Leary said Friday. “And we were unable to adjust or re-allocate remaining funding to continue tours while still ensuring enough funding remained to meet all operational needs and avoid furloughing our employees.”
Leary added that the Secret Service is confident that–through the short-term spending bill passed by Congress this week–tours can operate at a reduced level, “while still meeting operational requirements.”
Visitors who want a White House tour are advised to obtain tickets through their members of Congress.
The White House said it will also open up its gardens and grounds on October 26th and 27th. Members of the public can get a free ticket–distributed on a first-come, first-served basis–outside the White House on those dates.
By Ashley Killough