"You know, I have to say this was not– a decision that went up to the White House..."
In an ABC News transcript released on 13 March, 2013 of a George Stephanopouos interviews with Barack Obama, the Chief Executive denied authorizing the cancellation of all self-guided tours of the White House that took effect March 1, 2013.
Instead, Obama insinuated it was a decision the Secret Service mandated upon the White House without his consideration nor consent.
Initially blaming the 2 percent cut in planned federal spending increases, popularly known as the sequestration, the White House Visitors Office released an e-mail as well as a telephone recording on the White House Visitors Office line stating: (see video below)
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. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours.
We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season. For updates regarding this situation, please contact the White House Visitors Office 24 Hour Hotline at (202) 456-7041.
White House Visitors Office
However, when questioned by Stephanopoulos, Obama shifted the responsibility on the tour cancellations on his protective detail in the Secret Service:
"GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: –one more question about the spending cuts. You’ve been takin’ a lotta heat for this cancellation of the White House tours. They get– the Secret Service says it’s costs about $74,000 a week. Was canceling them really necessary?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I have to say this was not– a decision that went up to the White House. But th– what the Secret Service explained to us was that they’re gonna have to furlough some folks. What furloughs mean is– is that 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’ve got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck who suddenly are seein’–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So no reconsideration?
BARACK OBAMA: –a 5% or 10%– reduction in their pay. Well, 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. Can we make sure that– kids, potentially, can– can still come to tour?"
Yet Obama was able to make sport of those who questioned the wisdom of the hype associated with the "fearquestration" many Democrats warned would happen if the minor cut in federal spending went into effect:
"BARACK OBAMA: But– but– 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 doin’ that?”
Well, there are consequences to Congress not having come up with a more sensible way to reduce the deficit. And what I’m proposing is if we do it smart, if we do it sensibly, if we do it in a balanced way that the American support, including, by the way, a majority of Republicans, then we don’t have to– do arbitrary stuff. We can do it in an intelligent way that’s gonna improve our economy."
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