Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, Saturday was the day that Lanier Middle School students from Houston, Texas, had been looking forward to for a long time. They were going to get to see where the President of the United States lived. This was even more exciting because it was the first time in 5 years that Lanier had been successful in scheduling a tour of the White House. Then last week, 2 days before they were set to go on their tour, they got the bad news. They were no longer welcome in the people's house.
Mr. Speaker, I know one of the parents of the kids at Lanier Middle School. Here's what she said:
It's disappointing. But it is particularly disappointing to me because I think it teaches the kids a bad lesson of not keeping your word. I think that's bad for the kids.
Harvin Moore, a trustee from the Houston Independent School District, wrote the White House when he got the bad news, and here's what he said:
Next week, 80 students from Lanier Middle School will be spending their spring break touring our Nation's capital.
They have been planning the trip for a year. They have completed background checks and received confirmation that they would be welcomed to the White House and, as you can imagine, were very excited about that.
Now we find ourselves in the position of having to explain to them that their plans have been abruptly canceled and they will not be welcome at the White House after all.
Frankly, that's a hard thing to do as we don't understand the reason ourselves.
We don't understand why, out of a $1.6 billion Secret Service budget, the administration believes that \1/20\th of 1 percent that is required to fund the White House tours is one of the first things to go.
We don't understand why the administration would choose to cancel the program that touches the public the most, in return for a truly minuscule budget savings.
We don't understand, Mr. President, why you have chosen to disinvite schoolchildren from their White House.
The First Lady has referred to the White House as the ``People's House.'' I agree with her. It is the ``People's House--it is our house.''
Mr. Moore continued in his letter:
One Lanier parent described having to tell her son he was no longer welcome at the White House: The word ``sequester'' doesn't mean anything to this student. First Lady Michelle Obama said that the White House is our house. Well, it doesn't feel like it anymore.
Mr. Speaker, Lanier students from Texas are not alone. Thousands of students nationwide are gearing up for spring break, and the cherry blossom festival is just a few weeks away. These trips require planning, time, and, yes, even money. Bake sales, car washes, parents taking time off of work were all involved so kids could come to Washington to tour the White House.
But the President, unfortunately, has punished the people for the sake of a few nickels. Perhaps the White House forgot what the First Lady has said, which is posted on the home page of whitehouse.gov:
This is really what the White House is all about. It's the ``People's House.''
Well, Mr. Speaker, if this is true, the President should take the padlocks off the White House doors, put the welcome mat back on the front porch, because America's kids should not be evicted from their White House.
Mr. Speaker, the open-door philosophy of the White House is a uniquely American idea where the people of the country can come see where the President of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, actually lives.
This is uniquely American. You go to other countries and, whether they're democracies or not, they don't let you near the home of where the head leader lives. But only in America have we done this.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the President to keep his word. Let the people back in. And as students come to Washington, D.C., they should know that the U.S. Capitol is open for business and that Members of Congress, their staff, and the tour guides at the Capitol Visitor Center will be glad to take them through the Capitol. In fact, earlier this morning, there were about 70 kids from Westchester, New York, seated here before we opened for business, getting a history lesson from one of our Parliamentarians.
Mr. Speaker, the Capitol is open, but neither the White House nor the U.S. Capitol should ever close its doors and ban the people from the people's houses.
And that's just the way it is.