Nedra Pickler, The Associated Press, March 13, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is opening the door to the possibility of a resumption of White House tours for student groups amid some confusion over who made the ultimate decision to cancel them.
The decision has been much criticized by Republicans who say it should remain open to the public and some expectant visitors who were planning to see inside the White House during the spring break travel season.
Obama says in an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday that the decision to cancel the tours in the wake of budget cuts was made by the Secret Service, citing the need to furlough some employees. "This was not a decision that went up to the White House," Obama said.
That seemed to contradict his spokesman, Jay Carney, who said last week that the Secret Service presented the White House with options for cuts including canceling tours or furloughing staff, and the White House decided to suspend tours to allow the Secret Service to focus on its core mission.
Asked to clarify the confusion Wednesday, Carney said the White House had agreed with the Secret Service's evaluation that canceling the tours was the least-bad option.
"The Secret Service came to us with a decision that because of the sequester cuts, it would be impossible, in their view, to staff those tours," Carney said. "It was our job then to cancel the tours. The Secret Service cannot, because those are White House tours."
Obama told ABC he's checking with the Secret Service to see if there is a way to ease the policy.
"What I'm asking them is, are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups who may have traveled here with some bake sales," Obama said. "Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?"
Carney added later that while officials are reviewing potential options to accommodate certain groups, a full-scale re-opening of tours wasn't on the table.
"That's not an option, because of the sequester cuts," he said.