(CNN) – Real estate titan Donald Trump said he'll cover the costs to keep the White House tours open for rest of the fiscal year, an idea proposed online last week by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The White House announced Tuesday it was suspending the tours through September 30 as a consequence of the forced spending cuts-known in Washington as the sequester–that began taking effect March 1. The tours stopped running on Friday.
The move quickly sparked controversy, with some Republicans arguing the Obama administration was using the canceled tours as a political ploy to draw up negative reaction from the American public over the cuts.
Gingrich floated an alternative idea last week. On Twitter the former presidential candidate volunteered his fellow Republican to pick up the tab.
"Donald trump should offer to pay for the white house tours. He can afford it and it would show who cares more for American students," he wrote, referring to the hordes of kids who venture to Washington for spring break and summer vacation.
Asked Monday about the tweet on "Fox and Friends," Trump said in a phone interview that he hadn't heard anything about the suggestion.
"I think it's so nice of Newt to suggest that," the media mogul said, adding that Gingrich and his wife are members of his club in Washington. "But it sounds reasonable to me. Why not?"
After agreeing to the pitch, he asked how much it would cost.
The U.S. Secret Service told CNN Thursday that the plan will help 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.
But that's just a fraction of the $84 million the Secret Service needs to cut from its $1.6 billion budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The officers normally assigned to the tours will be reassigned to other duties at the White House.
"The Secret Service, like other agencies of government is affected by the sequester," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his Thursday press briefing. "And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And 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."
READ MORE: Critics to Obama: Give up golf, not W.H. tours
Asked if the White House could accept private donations to fund the tours, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday "I don't know if it's technically possible."
"My guess is that it's not," he said in the daily briefing. "The reason for that is that the sequester mandates across the board, non-strategic, indiscriminate, cuts to the budget. It allows very little, if any, flexibility."
While the White House has not commented on Trump's specific offer, it would also be highly unusual for the Obama administration to accept private contributions for a Secret Service activity.
Trump on Monday said the public White House tours of the East Wing have been a "simple" and "open" tradition for years.
"It's certainly not a lot of money. The big thing is that the country is going to lose a trillion dollars this year," he said. "Closing the White House tours is not exactly the biggest thing on the agenda."
– CNN's Adam Aigner-Treworgy and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.
I never understood why the government didn't charge a modest fee for these tours (as well as the Smithsonian, National Archives,national parks, etc.). While it's a nice idea that everyone can visit regardless of ability to pay, in reality the vast majority of visitors are those that can cough up big bucks for a Washington DC hotel and who would not miss a few extra dollars. Perhaps we could have steep discounts for student groups.
Hey President Obama, don't try to stabilize the economy because we the GOPT will accuse you of inflating the national debt. Don't try to boost small business or help the Auto industry rebound. Don't provide unemployment benefits to the millions of unemployed who lost their jobs to the Great Recession the GOP caused. Don't provide financial incentives to big businesses to rehire or keep employees employed. Don't provide financial incentives to big businesses to bring jobs back to our shores. Don't reign in corruption on Wall Street to avert another economic crisis. Don't make health care more affordable for an additional 30 million Americans. Don't end the illegitimate Iraqi war because if you do, you'd reduce the national debt and save our economy trillions of dollars. Hey President Obama, don't go after OBL because we the GOPT would accuse you of invading a sovereign nation. Hey President Obama, look how you've inflated the national debt and hurt the American people. hey President Obama we the GOPT are sorry for being envy and jealous of your success.
if trump the dump is taken up on his offer, the wingnuts will parlay it into some secret, evil conspiracy by President Obama....
I can't believe Obama canceled the tours. Really stupid.
I was under the impression that Republican politicians and their most rabid blogging backers prided themselves on their business acumen and ability to "make the tough choices".
The Secret Service cutting "tours" from it`s budget sound like a prudent move that any manager making a prioritization decision would make. If the GoP were really business minded, they`d approve of this cutback in an environment where they SAY they want to cut spending.
I'm not going to argue which party is responsible for the sequester. But the White House had a choice to make:
1) Cancel tours and be lambasted for cancelling tours, or
2) Not cancel tours and be lambasted for spending money on tours when other more essentiual services are being cut.
The Republicans could easily write two speeches well in advance and just wait to decide which one to give.
March 11, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
March 11, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
Andy, you are exactly right.
I don't remember anyone screaming about "the people's house" when GW Bush shut down the WHite House tours, do you?
Gingrich suggested it. What a cheapskate. If you looked at his tax return made public during the primary, you'd see that his total charities were equiva;emt to about one 8 hour shift of WH visits. He's got to make a point with someone else's money. Finster!
humm.... how is trump willing to pay for continued WH tours different from raising revenues? will trump be able to claim this as an expense on his 2013 taxes? is this a sign that the super the rich now are willing to sponsor and fund parts of gov't operations to avoid closing tax loopholes?
The Real Tom Paine
CJ – please post your proof of what you say about Donald Trump about scewing contractors. If you don't post then you are making it up. Why do some people hate rich people so much? Did a poor person ever create a job for you?
Prove that he did not screw contractors, then.
That is the Trump standard method of operation, not paying the contractors when the general contractor and/or the construction management company files for bankruptcy when the project nears completion.
Why would the President agree to put the people that protect him on the payroll of a man that hates him?
That's one way for Donald Trump to really get under Barack Obama's skin.
Trump and Newt are the 2 who cheated on their dying wives, right?
I'd give more credence to the GOP's Spokesperson: Sarah Palin.
Gosh, what a party of losers.
Canceling the white house tours is Obama's fist step to becoming a dictator.
I never understood why the government didn't charge a modest fee for these tours (as well as the Smithsonian, National Archives,national parks, etc.).
Simple. Because you, the taxpayer, own them.
Here goes the fool again!
It's hard to believe that any grown, intelligent person would fall for the likes of this modern day snake oil peddler. What's the matter Mr. and Mrs. America, not enough drama and entertainment for you to digest on a daily basis? You have to give credence to the likes of this idiot?
Why doesn't Soros pay for the White House Tours? He paid for the Occupy Wall street debacle. He's even wealthier than Trump AND he's a good friend of Obama's
It's not really about who pays for it – certainly Obama's Hollywood and NBA friends could equally afford it. The real issue is the obvious and blatant effort to make the cuts hurt people to prove what point. Why isn't CNN looking where else cuts could be made to minimize public angst. Why carry the administration's water so often. Clearly you have writers that can dig deeper than talking points deep. I think the public expects more from CNN than it gets.
Let George Soros pay for the White House tours. He's friends with Obama.
Trump might be acting altruistically or he might simply appreciate the optics. Either way it wouldn't be right for him to pay for the tours. First, the White House and its upkeep is our collective responsibility, which is why we can fairly say it is the people's house. Second, just as individuals can't choose where their taxes go, they cannot selectively "sponsor" the government in this manner. The inappropriateness of this sort of arrangement is just ... obvious.
$50/hr? I know now where we can cut some expense.
As a final thought, your article says that the Secret Service personnel are being reassigned within the Secret Service- how does that save them money; or is that government accounting – they are still on the payroll. At least figure out how money was saved not moved.
Does the man who foots the bill take control? What is the hidden agenda?
Wow. $50 per hr as a security guard. Must be nice.