House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) tweaked President Obama’s sequestration panic with the following letter to constituents:
The White House announced today that White House tours are being canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration.
Sequestration, as you may know, is the term for the mandatory federal budget cuts that went into effect March 1 under the terms of a bipartisan budget law enacted in 2011. Under sequestration, federal agencies and offices are required to find ways to reduce unnecessary spending within their budgets, and to do more with less, as many American families are being forced to do in the current economy.
While I???m disappointed the White House has chosen to comply with sequestration by cutting public tours, I???m pleased to assure you that public tours of the United States Capitol will continue. Under the leadership of the House officers and their teams, who oversee daily operations in the Capitol in consultation with the Office of the Speaker, planning for the possibility of sequestration has been underway for some time. Consequently, alternative spending reductions have been implemented within the Capitol complex to ensure public tours and other regular activities can proceed as they normally would.
I encourage you and your family to visit the U.S. Capitol during your trip to Washington, D.C. If you haven???t already made arrangements through my office for a Capitol tour, I encourage you to do so.
Paul Roderick Gregory of Forbes put the “savings” from sacrificing those White House tours on the altar of “austerity” into perspective:
We do not have the OMB???s costs for the White House Visitor???s Office and the visitor???s area a few blocks away manned by the park service. We do know that the People???s House hosts some 614,000 visitors a year under security conditions that are similar to the Capitol. If the White House matches the Capital in costs per visitor, White House tours cost the government $4.3 million per year from which 8.2 percent has been cut for a loss of $352,000 (that is thousands not millions). I invite White House officials to correct my figures. They have the numbers. The President would characterize these ???Republican??? cuts as draconian. No other reasonable person would.
The entire White House budget, according to the OMB, equals about five hundred million. If White House tours cost four million, they would account for about one percent of White House spending. Somehow this figure seems about right.
American families cannot take a tour of the White House because of a cut of $352,000, which equals the cost of operating Air Force One for two hours. My guess is that they would prefer for the President to helicopter down to Camp David for his next outing to save enough to keep the White House open to the American public.
The White House has the exact numbers. I invite them to explain to the American people that the White House sequester cuts are so large, they require the drastic action they have taken.
Republicans should miss no opportunity to “invite” the White House to explain this sort of thing. The American people seem properly skeptical of these petty little attempts to make them feel the pain of sequestration.
Update: Adding to the President’s well-deserved humiliation, Eric Bolling of Fox News has offered to personally cover the cost of White House tours for at least a week. “If I can get the doors open, I’ll pick up the tab!” said Bolling. “Let these families take their White House tours next week and I???ll cover the added expenses. Word is it will cost around $74,000.” Fellow Fox personality Sean Hannity soon offered to pay for another week himself. Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator invited Bill Clinton to jump in, noting that the ex-President is always touting the virtues of individual charity, while complaining that he has too much money.
Come to think of it, doesn’t Barack Obama often say the same thing? A year of White House tours would cost far less than a single one of the Royal Family’s lavish vacations. Obama is a millionaire, thanks to his lifetime in politics, and could afford to cover the cost himself; he frequently advertises his personal wealth as a reason the rest of us should be willing to pay higher taxes without complaint. Come on, Mr. President, at least kick in $74k and sponsor a week alongside Bolling and Hannity! Do it for The People!