Email tells feds to make sequester as painful as promised

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All sides in Washington agree there should be a way to lessen some of the impacts of the cuts.

The House will take at least a step toward that Wednesday when it votes on a new spending bill for the rest of fiscal year 2013 that would mitigate at least some of the sequester impacts in the Defense Department.

Senate Democrats are looking to write an even broader bill to rearrange money in several accounts.

Mr. Obama is pushing for the broadest possible deal later this year that would raise taxes and cut entitlement spending in order to restore some of the money trimmed in sequestration.

The White House said he made calls to some key members of Congress to sound them out on the prospects for that kind of deal.

“The president is engaging with lawmakers of both parties and will continue to do so,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

For now, though, the cuts remain in place — and that means the end of White House tours.

“Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration, we regret to inform you that White House Tours will be canceled effective Saturday, March 9, 2013 until further notice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reschedule affected tours,” the White House said in an email to members of Congress.

The decision drew a derisive response from Capitol Hill, where Republicans said the move undercut Mr. Obama’s promises of openness.

Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican, said President Lincoln managed to keep the White House open during the darkest days of the Civil War, and wondered why Mr. Obama couldn’t do the same.

“If the president is unable to figure out how to keep the White House open to the American people after an 8.2 percent budget cut, then the American people are entitled to some answers from their chief executive as to why.”

The Capitol is facing its own cuts.

At the Capitol, staffers entering the building’s West Front were told Tuesday that the doorway there would be closed as of next week due to sequestration. That entrance is currently limited to credentialed visitors, so it won’t affect the public.

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