Visitors to the nation’s capital looking for a White House public tour are out of luck starting this weekend, courtesy of what the Secret Service says is its own decision to deal with the sequester cuts.
But while the agency said it needed to pull officers off the tours for more pressing assignments, the budget ax didn’t swing early or deep enough to curtail a host of recent Secret Service-chaperoned trips like President Obama’s much-discussed Florida golf outing with Tiger Woods and first lady Michelle Obama’s high-profile multi-city media appearances.
Obama’s pricey golf outings have been a particular target for Republicans who see them as examples of what they say are the administration’s rather selective concerns with running up the tab of Secret Service resources. On March 5, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert filed an amendment to a House resolution that would prohibit federal funds from being spent on Obama’s golf trips until public tours of the White House resumed.
Gohmert referenced press reports pegging the cost of a recent Florida golf outing Obama took with Tiger Woods at $1 million. He also cited press reports saying 341 federal workers could have been spared furloughs if Obama had stayed home.
“The president’s travel expenses alone, for the golfing outing with Tiger Woods, would pay for a year of White House visits,” Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said Thursday. “So I suggest that perhaps he curtail the travel.”
The price tag and draw on Secret Service resources involving promotional campaigns like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative is less clear.
The Secret Service does not usually reveal how many agents and other resources are assigned to protective missions so it’s not known just how much it cost taxpayers to ferry the first lady to events like her dance routine on Jimmy Fallon’s show — the highlight of a Feb. 22 media blitz in New York — or her Feb. 27-28 visit to Mississippi, Missouri and her hometown of Chicago.
Those trips would all have involved Secret Service details traveling with the first lady, as well as advance work by teams of agents on location.