Make them howl! Senate votes to keep WH tours closed

The continuing resolution passed by the Senate yesterday that will fund the government until September had a few minor sequester fixes, giving bureaucrats a little more flexibility in some departments for deciding where the cuts will fall.

One big change was in restoring funds for meat inspections. Meat packers must have an inspector on site and the FDA was going to start furloughing some of those inspectors in the coming weeks. By restoring the money, the industry says the US will process billions of pounds more of beef and poultry that we would have if the cuts were still in place.

But no such luck for school kids and tourists who want to tour the White House.

Washington Times:

"It was important that Congress act to prevent a potential crisis from developing in our nation's food supply," said Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat. "Backlogs in food inspections could result in the shutdown of processing facilities and send devastating ripple effects through rural communities and straight to the shelves of every market and grocery in the country."

Senators nibbled away what they considered the worst parts of the sequester, but they declined to undo President Obama's decision to cancel White House tours - a move he made 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 restore the White House tours, proposing to cut $8 million from spending on national heritage areas in the National Park Service budget.

Mr. Obama himself had proposed the heritage area cuts last year.

Mr. Coburn said the money could be used both to restore White House tours and to help open up parts of Western national parks such as Yellowstone, which could have to delay springtime openings because sequesters have cut money to plow snow off the roads.

But senators, led mostly by Democrats, rejected that plan, arguing that Mr. Coburn was staging a show vote and that canceling the heritage area money would hurt economic development in their home states.

Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who led the opposition, also said he doubted whether the money would go to reopen the White House.

Reed is probably right. The White House would have been under no obligation, even with the extra cash, to re-open the tours to the public. There was probably little chance the president would have given in on his most visible example of GOP heartlessness in closing the tours.

It's been three weeks since the sequester went into effect and the republic still stands. It will be interesting to see when the White House begins trumpeting every little annoyance that results from the sequester. But if the cuts are not affecting ordinary people, it's hard to see how Obama and the Democrats can build momentum to restore those cuts.