President Barack Obama leaves the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, after visiting with Senate Democrats in in the first of four meetings with lawmakers this week to discuss the budget. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is opening the door to the possibility of a resumption of White House tours, at least for student groups, amid some confusion over who made the ultimate decision to cancel them.
The decision has been much criticized by Republicans who say it should remain open to the public and some expectant visitors who were planning to see inside the White House during the spring break travel season.
Obama says in an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday that the decision to cancel the tours in the wake of budget cuts was made by the Secret Service, citing the need to furlough some employees. "This was not a decision that went up to the White House," Obama said.
That seemed to contradict his spokesman, Jay Carney, who said last week that the Secret Service presented the White House with options for cuts including canceling tours or furloughing staff.
"In order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours," Carney said.
White House spokesman Clark Stevens said Wednesday the president was referring to the point that the Secret Service determined they could not staff the tours without forcing additional agents to take time off without pay. Stevens said that was an unacceptable option, and the White House had to be the one to call off the tours since it operates them.
Obama told ABC he's checking with the Secret Service to see if there is a way to ease the policy.
"What I'm asking them is, are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups who may have traveled here with some bake sales," Obama said. "Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?"
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