White House tours reopen for visitors

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - A surprise visit by the President and the First Lady kicked off the re-opening of the White House tours.

"We're just excited to have people back in the White House," said Michelle Obama.

As hundreds waited in line outside, Mr. and Mrs. Obama welcomed back visitors for the first time in nine months.

"Good to see you...where are you guys from" he asked tourists.

The tours have been on hiatus as a casualty of the federal budget crisis – the last ones were held on March 9 of this year.

The Lloyd family is visiting from Michigan -- they were some of the lucky few who managed to get in on the first day.

"This was a planned trip not planned so long ago, so for us it was kind of exciting to get in," said Becky Lloyd.

"I think it's cool to be able to take the kids through," added her husband, David. "Especially so they can see it and we got lucky with the timing really."

Though more than 650,000 people visit the White House every year, the tours of the East Wing and Executive Residence will now be limited to just a few days a week.

"The fact that it was closed was very saddening. It's a historic treasure," said visitor Ron Dennis.

"I think because it belongs to the people of the country, it should always be open," agreed Pam Albrarelli.

But the tours may only continue until January 15; that's when the current stopgap spending measure expires, and funding will again be in jeopardy.