White House becomes armed fortress

Mar 20, 2013 by

Senators voted Wednesday to keep the White House closed to public tours, turning back a GOP-led effort to free up money to open the building back up after the sequesters.
The vote was just one of a series of high-profile votes the Senate was taking Wednesday afternoon as it plowed toward passage of a bill to fund the government through the rest of this fiscal year.

SEE RELATED: Obama suggests Secret Service at fault for shuttered White House tours

President Obama canceled the tours earlier this month as one of the casualties of the budget sequesters, setting off a chorus of complaints from Congress and the public.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, offered an amendment to free up $8 million money to keep both the White House and several national parks open on their regular schedules. He proposed reclaiming money from national heritage areas elsewhere in the National Park Service budget.

But Democrats objected, saying it was a show vote that was note going to accomplish what Mr. Coburn said it would. They also said canceling park service heritage money would hurt their home states.

They defeated Mr. Coburn’s amendment on a 54-45 vote, with nearly every Republican voting to reopen the White House and with almost all Democrats voting to back Mr. Obama’s decision.

After days of stalemate, senators agreed to hold votes on the White House tours, on cutting off funding for political science research and on keeping meat plant inspections up and running in spite of the budget sequesters.

Congress is trying to pass the end-of-year funding before it leaves town for a two-week vacation. The House already passed its version of the bill, but senators had bogged down in fighting over what amendments they would even be allowed to vote on.

“We’re focused on all the wrong things because it’s all about the next election,” Mr. Coburn said.

SEE RELATED: GOP video mocks White House for canceling tours

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said that the proposal was not a real fix for national park funding.

“In addition there has been some suggesting that this would help restore White House tours. Those tours are governed by the security service, which is not part of this amendment, so that would not be affected,” he said.

Mr. Coburn countered that the amendment would provide enough money for the national parks to open on time this year.

“It will make a big difference in Yellowstone and all the rest of the national parks. The National Park Service does gave something to do with White House tours because they can take this money and reallocate it. It is not a Secret Service problem. It is a national park problem.”

Senate votes to keep White House tours closed – Washington Times.

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