Obama wants school groups to get White House tours
March 13th, 2013
10:26 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama wants school groups to get White House tours

(CNN) – Full public tours of the White House don't appear to be coming back any time soon, but President Obama says he wants to figure out a way certain school groups can still gain access to the famous address.

In an interview with ABC, Obama said the unpopular move to suspend the tours in the wake of automatic spending cuts "was not- a decision that went up to the White House." Still, Obama said he wants to find a way partial tours can resume.

"What I'm asking them is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups- you know, who may have traveled here with some bake sales," Obama said in the interview that aired Wednesday. "Can we make sure that- kids, potentially, can still come to tour?"

The decision to suspend the tours came days after Washington failed to come up with a plan to avert $85 billion in forced spending cuts, known as sequestration.

The U.S. Secret Service said that the plan to cut tours 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.

A White House spokesman said last week that this was just the first consequence from the automatic cuts. And White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that more White House employees will face pay cuts and furloughs.

Some Republicans, however, argue the move is unnecessary and was simply a political ploy aimed to draw attention to the cuts. Some have called on the president to give up golf, not the White House tours, and real estate titan Donald Trump, a vocal critic of the president, even offered to pay for the tours through the remainder of the fiscal year (though it's highly unlikely private funding would be permitted for a Secret Service function).

Following up on the president's comments in the interview, a White House official said the decision to cancel the tours was made to prevent more furloughs of Secret Service employees.

"We greatly regret the inconvenience and disappointment these cancellations have caused," the official said. "While we are not able to reconsider the overall cancellation policy, the White House continues to assess the situation and looking to see if a particular accommodation can be made for student and other large groups who had previously scheduled reserved tour.”

In the interview Wednesday, Obama said he understood the decision was made to avoid increased furloughs of Secret Service employees.

"What the Secret Service explained to us was that they're going to have to furlough some folks. What furloughs mean is people lose a day of work and a day of pay, and, you know, 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 got White House tours if it means you got a whole bunch of families depending on a paycheck who are suddenly seeing a 5% or 10% reduction in their pay," Obama said.

The Secret Service had no comment on the president's statements.

– CNN's Dan Lothian, Adam Aigner-Treworgy, and Lesa Jansen contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. DENNA

    With all of it hitting the fan, the Republicans still think we can just tax-cut our way out of this mess. Paul Ryan revealed the true Republican agenda. Get rid of Obamacare and we can balance the budget. This awful man cannot stand the thought that ordinary people will have the dignity of going to a doctor and getting medicines they can afford. This just dumbfounds me. Why not take away the public-paid healthcare these elected "public servants" suck up and let them pay for their own privately. Goodness knows we pay these selfish cretins enough money.

    March 13, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. Dean

    But only kids from inner-city schools. With preference to Illinois and Michigan.

    March 13, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  3. critical thinking

    "was not- a decision that went up to the White House."

    My god man, you are the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. If you can't resolve something as simple as tours to the White House, we are truly DOOMED !

    This is what you get when you elect a community organizer as your President. He reminds of the character from an old TV show called Hogan's Heros. There was a german guard named Sgt Schultz that when pressed for an answer as to why something went wrong would respond; " I know nothing about it." That is what we got here. President I know nothing about it.

    March 13, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    That's because he wants to brain wash the kids, just as he does the adults.

    March 13, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    DENNA

    With all of it hitting the fan, the Republicans still think we can just tax-cut our way out of this mess. Paul Ryan revealed the true Republican agenda. Get rid of Obamacare and we can balance the budget.
    ------------------–
    The only thing is that Ryan does not fully repeal Obamacare. He cherry picks it like a roasted turkey carcass. He keeps the tax penalties, but does not provide a means for those who cannot afford healthcare a means to do so. He keeps the $700 billion in Medicare cuts that he campaigned against last fall, which he did without telling anyone that the budget he campaigned on included the same cuts.

    He does away with any spending in Obamacare that covers medical expenses and retasks it as $500 billion in additional defense spending over the next decade. The remaining $700 billino are used to "undo" all of the defense cuts that have been enacted over the past couple of years. And that's not the worst parts of the Ryan Plan.

    March 13, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  6. Logic N LA

    Critical Thinking- I assume you took Social Studies in school and knwo the President does not control our purse strings- Congress does. Conservatives are funny- they are mad when he does something and and mad if he does nothing. sounds to me like they are all just mad. Yes, he signs bills, but these cuts were all pre-ordained by the Sequester agreement. and NOW we're all shocked?
    Put taxes back to a logical level and cut loopholes- thenwe can have all the tours we want.

    March 13, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. Evan

    My eighth grader is traveling to DC with his school next week and had been hoping to take a White House tour. He and his friends were obviously very disappointed in having their tour canceled. But it became, as you say, a teachable moment. His social studies teacher explained that the cancellation was due to the inability of the Congress and White House to govern effectively. It will form a good juxtaposition, actually, as my son gets to see Willamsburg, the Lincoln Memorial, and other historic sites around the Capital, learning both how our government functions at its very best, and now, at its very worst. So, I guess our officials have accomplished something at least.

    March 13, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  8. chill

    Of all the things the Secret Service and the Treasury Department have to do, securing White House tours to the tune of $2M is not very high on the list in my view. The fuss over it while vital rpograms are being cut and people are losing their jobs is inane.

    March 13, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. James Bond

    Rick,critical, so right, we need george back, and dick, they would know how to get er done, just look how he fixed the economy, and jobs his last year, we really needed to stay the course there huh?

    March 13, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. James Bond

    And just look @ the jobs numbers, right after a tax hike on the rich. i thought that was supposed to be a job killer. we claerly need to give more breaks to the rich, money in the bank is what makes the economy hum, what am i missing rick?

    March 13, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  11. DENNA

    I love how the Obama haters keep belaboring his "community organizer" background. Heck, his organizational skills got him a job as a constitutional law professor and now president. I'd say he's done very, very well with his community organizer skills. How successful are you?

    March 13, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  12. Rodney

    Here is a way Mr. Obama, you can cut out a couple of the golf outings and one lavish vacation a year that should cover the cost of operation the tours! Both of those require the service of the Secret Service so the money they save on your trips could pay for the officers for the tours.

    March 13, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. James Bond

    Only the weak minded can be brainwashed rick, ssssoooo, your the one spouting fantasy here bub, your party is still trying to convince people to cut their own throat, so the rich can have even more money, cause the millions they have just is'nt making them happy, maybe a few million more will di the trick

    March 13, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. James Bond

    Critical is beyond rational, he may actually believe the crap he spews on here,poor fella, thats the risk you take when over indulging in fox news, worse than crack

    March 13, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    My god man, you are the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. If you can't resolve something as simple as tours to the White House, we are truly DOOMED !
    -------------------------------------------------–
    Do you have 2 million dollars to cough up to pay the Secret Service? If you do, please mail your check to the Treasury Department. By the way, I prefer to have the community organizer as POTUS rather than that UBS, tax evading Willard.

    March 13, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  16. James Bond

    yeah, because of the tours being cancelled, we are definitly doomed, your reaching a bit dont you think?

    March 13, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  17. rob

    He can resolve this immediately if he wanted to but as usual with all his admin and the Dems in general, he deflecs blame or pretends that "others" made the decision.

    Lets see the Presidents Budget. Lets have him send it to the Senate and the house for votes. Then lets have them all sit down together and hash it out on C Span like he promised 5 years ago.

    March 13, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  18. Miguel

    Mr President you knew the White House was exempt from sequestration. I'm glad your little stunt backfired.

    March 13, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    My god man, you are the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. If you can't resolve something as simple as tours to the White House, we are truly DOOMED !
    -----------------–
    Do you have 2 million dollars to cough up to pay the Secret Service? If you do, please mail your check to the Treasury Department.
    ----–
    Someone offered to do just that, and it was rejected by the White House. Please try to keep up.

    March 13, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. Miguel

    Kinda makes you wonder where he learned his fiscal mismanagement skills. Oh I know – he didn't! He's a Constitutional Lawyer/ Community Organizer.

    March 13, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. Matt

    $50 an hour for security guard duty is pretty damn good. I thought Secret Service were notoriously underpaid?

    March 13, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Someone offered to do just that, and it was rejected by the White House. Please try to keep up.
    ---------------------------------------------–
    Tell Trump to mail his check to the Treasury Department.

    March 13, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  23. GI Joe

    Kids would probably enjoy the smithsonian more. Adults are the ones whining. Republican adults.

    March 13, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  24. critical thinking

    FYI, the emperior is not wearing any clothes.

    March 13, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. AprilElaine

    It's a little hard to come to a "compromise" when the Republicans are completly radical and do NOT live in the 21st century. From challenging womens rights, to wanting to cut back on Medicare, Social Security and etc.. what kind of American people would agree with this. Yesterday CNN posted an article stating that if these cuts proceed ONLY the wealthy eldery would be able to afford their doctors visits and medication. Who do the Republicans think they are cutting back on Social Security and Medicaid, very cold and heartless. I definitly do NOT want these kinds of people in our office regulating ANYTHING. Mr President do your job and stand firm, we are behind you.

    March 13, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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