Responding to a report this week that The White House will suspend its famous tours from March through September 30 thanks to the forced spending cuts known as the sequester, real estate titan Donald Trump told the press he is willing to cover the costs himself to keep the tours open for rest of the fiscal year.
Although the debt ceiling agreement that contained the sequestration cuts got significantly more Republican support than Democratic support, Trump, for years a registered Republican, says he is willing to pay the shortfall to keep the tours running.
According to Political Ticker the tours reportedly stopped on Friday with some Republicans grousing that the Obama administration was using them as a political ploy to cast a negative light over the sequester cuts.
Fearing a backlash from the American public on the matter, former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich Tweeted that Trump should pick up the tab.
'Donald trump should offer to pay for the white house tours. [sic] He can afford it and it would show who cares more for American students,' he wrote, referring to the large numbers of school kids who venture to Washington for spring break and summer vacation.
'I think it's so nice of Newt to suggest that,' Trump reportedly told Fox News this week, adding that Gingrich and his wife are members of his club in Washington. 'But it sounds reasonable to me. Why not?'
If Trump goes ahead with the plan it will cost $74,000 per week, or $2 million for the next seven months. That price tag includes paying 37 uniformed officers $50 an hour for 40 hours a week to secure the tour's route through the East Wing.
'The Secret Service, like other agencies of government is affected by the sequester,' White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during his Thursday press briefing. 'And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And 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.'
Asked if the White House could accept private donations to fund the tours, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday, 'I don't know if it's technically possible. My guess is that it's not. The reason for that is that the sequester mandates across the board, non-strategic, indiscriminate, cuts to the budget. It allows very little, if any, flexibility.'
So Trump's offer may give him media coverage without a price tag attached.
'It's certainly not a lot of money,' Trump said, referring to the cut budget. 'Closing the White House tours is not exactly the biggest thing on the agenda.'