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Senators keep White House closed to tours

March 20, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro
  • The White House, which will remain closed to tours, as seen through a chain-link fence.
The White House, which will remain closed to tours, as seen through a chain-link… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)

WASHINGTON – A Republican-led attempt to reopen the White House to tours was defeated largely along party lines Wednesday in the Senate.

Senators voted 45 to 54 on the measure from Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who was seeking to reshuffle the sequester cuts to bring back the White House tours and also prevent closures at Yellowstone and other national parks that have been hit by the budget reductions.

Republicans have criticized the decision to shutter the White House as a political move by the Obama administration designed to give the sequester cuts some bite, particularly after the president’s stark warnings over the consequences of the reductions have not been realized.

Halting the tours will save about $2 million from the Secret Service  budget.

The across-the-board cuts began March 1 after Congress was unable to devise an alternative budget-cutting measure, but some are starting to be felt in lawmakers’ home states.

The Coburn amendment, which needed 60 votes to pass, would have shifted $6 million from the National Heritage Areas programs. But senators said those programs, scattered across many states – including an Elvis Music Boat tour in Georgia and Friday night community concerts at a Delaware winery – relied on the federal aid.

The Senate is trying to rearrange some of the cuts to protect priority projects, tacking on changes to a must-pass measure to fund routine federal operations and avert a March 27 shutdown.

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