In the wake of the sequester-induced cancellation of all public White House tours and the subsequent Republican fury, Donald Trump has offered to pay for the tours for the rest of the fiscal year.
On Fox and Friends Monday morning, Trump was asked about Newt Gingrich’s tweeted suggestion that he cover the White House tour expenses. After admitting that he previously hadn’t know about Newt’s proposal, he ambivalently remarked, “I think it’s so nice of Newt to suggest that […] But it sounds reasonable to me. Why not?”
As reported by NBC News, cutting the tours will save $74,000 per week and almost $2 million by the time the fiscal year ends. Instead of supervising the tours, which have been around since President Jefferson opened the White House to the public for the first time in 1805, Secret Service officers will be transferred to more pertinent security posts.
During a press briefing on March 7, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained that though the White House was “obviously disappointed” in its decision to cut all public tours, they believed it to be a better option for the Secret Service in comparison to “potential furloughs and cuts in overtime.” Nevertheless, many Republicans and conservative pundits are up in arms about the decision.
On CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, House Speaker John Boehner told Larry Kudlow that President Obama is simply “trying to make it tough on members of Congress” and that “it’s just silly. In a letter to the White House, John Thune and thirteen other Republican Senators questioned the suspension, arguing that “arbitrarily shut[ing] off access to a taxpayer-funded, historical building, such as the White House, is disappointing.” In retaliation to the tour suspensions, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) filed an amendment to further prevent any government money going towards the president’s golf trips. On Thursday’s edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh lambasted Obama for canceling the tours while he ordered a “20-vehicle caravan [for] one half a mile” for his Republican outreach dinner at the Jefferson Hotel—even though the point of the dinner was to formulate a grand bargain for the sequester. And both Eric Bolling and Sean Hannity of Fox News have also offered to pay for the tours – but only for a week.
But the White House might not even be allowed to take Trump’s, or anyone else’s, gracious financial offerings. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Friday that it would be impossible for outside individuals to bankroll different sectors of the government affected by the sequester.
So as msnbc’s Ezra Klein pointed out on last Friday’s edition of The Last Word, Republicans are completely missing the point:
“White House tours don’t matter. They really don’t. […] The people they upset are people who are in touch with members of Congress. And so all of a sudden, we are running and we are petitioning and we are putting forward money and rushing to do something about, something to solve this national ‘White House tour crisis.’ But those folks are going to be fine without their tour. You know who may not be fine? The jobless who are seeing their unemployment checks, which in many cases is all they have to live on now, cut by almost 10%…. The 775,000 women and children who may lose access or be denied benefits from a supplement nutritional program … You know who may not be fine? The 100,000 formerly homeless people in emergency shelters or other temporary housing arrangements who the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs says might be turned back onto the streets.”
Since 1805, the White House has remained open to the public, except during wartimes or acts of terrorism like 9/11. However, the sequestration has put the country into a situation where the White House couldn’t justify spending money to supervise tourists. But only now, after President Obama had reached out multiple times to prevent the sequester, are Republicans upset. Closing out his segment, Ezra Klein observed:
“The GOP’s great fear right now is the sequester will hurt someone who the political system will actually listen to, someone with a voice the political system will hear…They want to continue the convenient political fiction that we can make these cuts and no one will really hurt, because government spending is just wasted fraud. But the way they’re doing it isn’t to make it that no one actually hurts. It is simply to try to ease the pain among the politically powerful.”