Source: Agencies | 2013-3-10 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
THE sixth-grade class at St Paul's Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa, sent a message this week that was heard in the White House briefing room.
"The White House is our house," the class said in a video posted on Facebook. "Please let us visit."
But their trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which had been set for March 16, is off. White House tours were suspended starting from yesterday due to mandated across-the-board spending cuts known as "sequestration." The move will save the federal government an estimated US$74,000 a week.
Many were left holding worthless tour tickets, secured months in advance through members of Congress. There is no rain check for a White House tour.
The children's video caught the attention of White House reporters, and of the top Republican in Congress.
"What is your answer, or the president's answer, to the sixth-graders at St Paul's Lutheran School?" one reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
"It is extremely unfortunate that we have a situation like the sequester that compels the kinds of trade-offs and decisions that this represents," said Carney.
He said the Secret Service, which is involved in the tours, offered various options to deal with cuts, ranging from canceling tours to furloughs and cuts in overtime.
"And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core missions, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours," Carney said.
The decision found little favor with supporters of St Paul's sixth-graders, who asked Facebook viewers to "like" their video to agitate for putting the tour back on their Washington itinerary.
By late Friday, nearly 1,000 had "liked" the post, nearly 500 had shared it and more than 100 had commented.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner boasted that tours of the Capitol would continue. He called the White House decision "disappointing" and "silly," the result of a failure to find savings in other parts of the budget.