It appears that the amount of money saved by cancelling public tours of the White House is roughly equal to, if not dramatically less than, the cost of one of President Obama’s vacations.
NBC News reported Thursday that halting tours of the White House, a measure the Obama administration has blamed on the spending reductions mandated by sequestration, would save about $74,000 per week, or nearly $2 million over the remainder of the fiscal year.
Those savings are roughly half the cost of Obama’s Christmas vacation to Hawaii last year, which was thoroughly documented by the watchdog website Hawaii Reporter. They estimated the total cost of that trip was “at least $4 million,” although the true cost could be nearly five times that much.
The president is reportedly planning a jaunt to Martha’s Vineyard in August, a repeat of a trip he made in 2011, when he spent eleven days at a $50,000-per-week beachfront rental property. US News & World Report pegged the cost of that trip to taxpayers as being in the “millions.”
Last week, Senate Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) estimated that Obama’s recent golf outing with Tiger Woods cost taxpayers “over a million dollars,” which was “enough money to save 341 federal workers from furlough.”
The White House has repeatedly insisted that cancelling the tours (beginning March 9) was unavoidable as the administration seeks to implement mandatory budget cuts. “We very much regret having to take this action, particularly during the popular Spring touring season,” the White House said in an e-mail to congressional staff earlier this week.
When asked about a group of Iowa sixth-grader petitioning the White House to reverse its decision, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters it was “extremely unfortunate” that administration was compelled to cancel the tours. The group was scheduled to tour the White House on March 16.
The Office of Management and Budget has calculated that the administration must implement a 5 percent reduction to the $16 million budget authority for the Executive Residence at the White House, the operating expenses of which include providing for “the public appreciation of and pride in the White House, its history, and display of its contents to annual visitors.” This portion of the federal budget is also responsible, according to the White House, for the “official entertainment expenses of the President.”
No word yet on how much those expenses will be cut due to sequestration.