White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday it was the Secret Service’s decision to cancel tours of the president’s home, a week after the spokesman said the White House itself made the decision after being presented with options.
President Obama said in an interview with ABC on Tuesday that the Secret Service, not the White House, made the call, saying the decision was between furloughing agents and keeping the tours going, or cutting the tours to keep more agents on the job. The cuts are hitting because of the budget sequesters, that took effect March 1.
“And the question for them is how deeply do they have to furlough their staff, and is it worth it to make sure that we’ve got White House tours if it means that you’ve got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck who suddenly are seeing a 5 or 10 percent reduction in their pay,” Mr. Obama said.
The decision to cancel White House tours, first reported by The Washington Times, has produced heated criticism from Congress, where House Speaker John A. Boehner pointedly announced the Capitol would remain open to the public. Mr. Boehner said Congress had made contingency plans to handle the spending cuts.
Pressed on the decision to cancel tours, Mr. Carney last week said that the Secret Service, “like other agencies of government, is affected by the sequester, and the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Carney explained the discrepancy, saying the Secret Service came to the White House with the view that the agency would have to withdraw staff from the tours in order to avoid more furloughs and cuts in overtime, and it was then the White House’s job to cancel the tours.