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Spending cuts close doors on White House tours

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(CNN) -- Visitors to Washington D.C. hoping to take a tour of the White House will soon be out of luck. The White House Visitor Center has canceled all tours effective Saturday March 9, a move meant to cut costs in the wake of forced spending cuts that hit the entire federal government last Friday.

An automated message at the visitor center's hotline informed callers of the news on Tuesday.

"Due to staffing reductions resulting from sequestration we regret to inform that White House tours will be canceled effective Saturday March 9, 2013 until further notice," the message said. "Unfortunately we will not be able to reschedule affected tours."

A White House spokesman said this is the first consequence of the forced budget cuts on the White House. The reductions will hit Secret Service staffing and staffing at the visitors office that processes the names of tour participants.

Below is the email sent to lawmakers on Capitol Hill:

ATTN Interested Parties,

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.

We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular spring touring season. For updates regarding this situation, please contact the White House Visitors Office 24 Hour Hotline at (202) 456-7041.


White House Visitors Office

Max Milien, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said officers normally assigned to tours will be reassigned to other security posts at the White House.

"This staffing measure will reduce overtime costs overall and may ultimately reduce the number of potential furloughs necessary by our agency," Milien said.

The Secret Service has been developing a plan to deal with the cuts and maintains that the agency's protective duties will not be affected, according to a Secret Service official.

Public, self-guided tours of the White House's East Wing are generally offered Tuesday through Saturday. Visitors can get tickets from their representative in Congress, and if they're lucky, they may even run into the president or first lady, who've both been known to personally greet visitors on occasion.

Hoping to reverse the decision, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, submitted an amendment to the continuing resolution that would prohibit the president from using federal funds to transport to or from a golf course until the White House resumes public tours.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich echoed that call on Twitter: "Canceling white house tours is childish and dishonest-the golf weekend in florida cost enough to keep the white house open for months."

As he returned to the White House Tuesday after visiting wounded veterans at a Washington hospital, President Barack Obama did not respond to shouted questions about the tours being canceled.

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