WASHINGTON (AP) — If your public tour of the White House has now been canceled, House Speaker John Boehner says come visit the Capitol instead.
Boehner says tours of that building will continue, despite mandatory spending cuts that led the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service on Tuesday to announce that public tours of the White House will end, starting Saturday, until further notice.
The Republican speaker made the tit-for-tat announcement in a letter to his Ohio constituents on Tuesday, following news about the suspension of White House tours. His office released the letter on Wednesday.
"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," Boehner wrote. He added that planning for the possibility of mandatory budget cuts, also known as sequestration, "has been under way 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," Boehner said.
Spending cuts that went into effect last Friday require that $85 billion be trimmed from the budget between March 1 and Sept. 30. The cuts were designed to force Congress and the White House to come up with a long-term plan to reduce federal budget deficits, but those negotiations so far have failed to produce an alternative acceptable to all sides.
The White House Visitors Office information line now informs callers that tours already planned will not be rescheduled. The free, self-guided tours can take visitors months to arrange through requests submitted to members of Congress or to embassies.
The Secret Service said uniformed officers normally assigned to White House tours will be reassigned to other security posts, noting that the reassignments will reduce overtime costs as well as potential furloughs that could have been required to meet the cuts in spending.
Separately, White House officials said planning continued apace for the annual Easter Egg Roll, scheduled for April 1. Free tickets have been distributed and more than 35,000 people were expected to join President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their family on the South Lawn for hours of sports and games, story-telling, cooking demonstrations and the traditional rolling of hard-boiled eggs.