Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Exclusive Gyms For Members Of Congress Deemed ‘Essential,’ Remain Open During Shutdown


Head Start programs have been shuttered, small businesses can’t get loans and hundreds of thousands of federal government employees are furloughed. But the exclusive gyms available only to members of Congress have remained open throughout the shutdown.
A House aide confirmed to ThinkProgress that the House member’s gym is open. The House gym features a swimming pool, basketball courts, paddleball courts, a sauna, a steam room and flat screen TVs. While towel service is unavailable, taxpayers remain on the hook for cleaning and maintenance, which has been performed daily throughout the shutdown. There are also costs associated with the power required to heat the pools and keep the lights on.
According to the aide, the decision to keep the gym open — even while other critical government services were shelved — while made by the Architect of the Capitol, but was done with the direct involvement Speaker Boehner’s office. Meanwhile, the staff gym available to Congressional staff has been closed.
It appears that the members gym in the Senate remains open on similar terms. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) complained to a reporter from the Omaha World-Herald that the members gym was getting “rank.”
The daily operating cost of the House and Senate gyms remains shrouded in secrecy. The Architect of the Capitol, which oversees both gyms, has previously refused to provide information about the gyms for “security reasons.” A call to the Architect of the Captol for this story was not immediately returned.
Dozens of House members — including many members of the Tea Party who pushed the government into shutdown over demands to defund Obamacare — live in their offices to save money and use the House gym to shower.
An initial version of this piece incorrectly reported that the decision to keep the gym open was made by Speaker’s Boehner’s office. Actually, the decision was made by the Architect of the Capital. According to a House aide, the decision of the Architect of the Capitol was done with the direct involvement of Speaker Boehner’s office, however. In a phone call, a spokesman for Speaker Boehner, Michael Steel, would not answer direct questions about whether Speaker Boehner’s office recommended the decision or had any communications with the Architect of the Capitol on the matter.

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