WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday said it was canceling visitor tours of the executive mansion, blaming the recent $85 billion in budget cuts known as the sequester.
For weeks, the White House had warned that the sequester would have a sweeping impact on the nation, causing long lines at airports, closing national parks and slowing the prosecution of criminals.
Despite those dire warnings, the White House and Congress failed to reach an alternative budget deal that would have averted the automatic cuts that kicked in on March 1.
So far, there has been little evidence of a dramatic immediate impact. But the White House appears to be taking a proactive approach to trimming in-house spending.
"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," the White House Visitors Office said in an email on Tuesday.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and former House Speaker, criticized the move in a tweet.
"Obama should be challenged - publish cost of White House tours - money could be raised to protect public access - this is silly and demeaning," Gingrich said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Karey Van Hall, Stacey Joyce and Cynthia Osterman)