It's been nearly two weeks since the White House announced it was canceling public tours of the historic residence in the name of sequestration, and we're still trying to figure out who made the call. According to the President, it was the Secret Service. According to the President's spokesman, the White House made the decision after the Secret Service presented different cost-cutting options.
Which is it?
Jay Carney at White House Press Briefing - Thursday 3/7:
"The Secret Service presented options that ranged from cancelling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime.
"And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would unfortunately have to temporarily suspend these tours."
Obama on ABC's Good Morning America - Wednesday 3/13:
"You know, I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House. But what the Secret Service explained to us was that they're gonna have to furlough some folks. What furloughs mean is that people lose a day of work and a day of pay."
WH Spokesman Post-Obama ABC Interview - Wednesday 3/13:
An administration official, seeking to clarify the president's remarks, stressed that the decision to cancel the tours never came to the Oval Office, falling personally to Obama, but that it was ultimately made by White House staff.
Obama at House GOP Conference Meeting - Wednesday 3/13:
President Obama insisted Wednesday that the Secret Service was behind the controversial suspension of White House tours, a claim that was met with vocal skepticism during a closed-door meeting with Republicans.
Jay Carney Post-Obama Meeting with GOP Conference - Wednesday 3/13:
" the fact of the matter is that the White House runs the tours. The tours are of the White House. The Secret Service staffs the tours. The Secret Service came to us with a decision that because of the sequester cuts, it would be, in their view, impossible to staff those tours; that they would have to withdraw staff from those tours in order to avoid more furloughs and overtime pay cuts. It was our job then to cancel the tours."
It Just Isn't Right
In response to the White House's inability to explain the decision, Committee on House Administration Chair Candice Miller, R-Mich., issued the following statement:
"It just isn't right that the Administration has decided to lock the American people out of the White House to deal with budget cuts when it is the American people who pay for the White House.
"It also just isn't right for the Administration to continue to blame the Secret Service for making the decision to cancel the tours. The Secret Service doesn't set policy, the Secret Service protects the President. President Obama and his administration must stop to trying to deflect blame for this decision and reopen the doors of the White House to the American people.
"As I told the President yesterday, there are other places he can achieve the needed cuts. He can start by eliminating events at the White House sponsored for the benefit of members of Congress. If it helps to open the White House to American children and families, then they should cancel events like the White House Christmas Party and summer picnic held for members of Congress.
"House Republicans have been cutting the costs to run the U.S. House of Representatives for the past three years, not just since the sequester took effect. Never while contemplating where to cut have we even considered closing the Capitol, the People's House, to the American people. The Capitol and the White House have been paid for and are owned by the American people and are revered symbols of our great democracy. No democracy should ever shut out the people from the institution of government. I urge President Obama to stop trying to deflect blame, stop trying to justify the unjustifiable, and reopen the doors of the White House to the American people because keeping them closed just isn't right."