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White House tours resume, Obamas surprise visitors

With the government shutdown in the rear-view mirror and Secret Service has had time to adjust to the sequester, the White House reopened its gates to visitors Tuesday.

Limited tours of the East Wing and Executive Residence resumed Tuesday, while the White House grounds and gardens re-opened to visitors on last week. Members of the public interested in touring the White House are advised to contact their representative in Congress.

In honor of the tours resuming, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama surprised visitors by greeting them as they passed through the Blue Room.

The first lady announced their "surprise" via Twitter and urged people to watch a live feed of them greeting guests.

The U.S. Secret Service decided in March to cancel White House tours in response to the "sequestration" budget cuts.

"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," Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement after last month's announcement of the tours resuming.

The government shutdown further stalled the resumption of the White House tours, but with federal funding guaranteed through at least Jan. 15, Leary said the tours will resume on a limited basis. Before the sequester, tours were granted five days a week, but the White House will now be open three days a week.

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