White House tours will restart Nov. 5 on a ‘limited basis’

(Charles Dharapak/AP) (Charles Dharapak/AP)

White House tours will resume on "a limited basis" starting Nov. 5, the White House announced Friday, while it will reopen its gardens and grounds to visitors on Oct. 26 and 27.

Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy said the tours would continue through Jan. 15 and occur three days a week, on average, though the exact number of days would vary. Before the White House halted the tours in March, they had taken place five days a week.

"Last year’s sequestration came midway through the fiscal year, and we were unable to adjust or re-allocate remaining funding to continue tours while still ensuring enough funding remained to meet all operational needs and avoid furloughing our employees," Novy said. "In light of the new fiscal year, the Secret Service is confident that through the Continuing Resolution tours can operate on a limited schedule while still meeting operational requirements."

Back in March, White House officials said the Secret Service had made the decision to cancel the popular tourist offering due to the across-the-board mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration. Now that a new fiscal year has started and there is a temporary continuing resolution, the Secret Service official said, the agency was able to reallocate funds so its agents could perform the necessary security screening required for an increased number of White House visitors.

"We will closely monitor the cost so we can make sure we can fund our mission-critical operations," said a Secret Service official who asked not to be identified in order to speak frankly. "We’re doing this on a limited basis, and if it gets to the point where we don’t have the money to do it, we'll stop."

Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), welcomed the move even as he mocked the White House for suspending the tours as long as it did.

"We're happy Americans can once again visit their White House, but even more pleased that the White House has finally caught up to Congress and figured out how to do more with less," Buck said.  "It's just a shame it took this long."

White House tours can be booked through members of Congress, the White House said, while free tickets for the White House garden tours the weekend of the 26th can be obtained at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion at 15th and E Streets this weekend beginning at 7:30 am. Tickets to the garden tour, which will take place on Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and on Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will be distributed one per person — including small children — on a first-come, first-served basis.

Garden tour guests will be able to see the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden and South Lawn of the White House as well as the White House Kitchen Garden.

Scott Wilson contributed to this report.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.

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