Whoops! Despite earlier reports House gym would be closed during shutdown, facility is open

Whoops! Despite earlier reports House gym would be closed during shutdown, facility is open

Houw Gym open
Rep. Jim Moran exiting the supposedly closed House gym

Remember the reports about the grievous hardships members of Congress would be forced endure because of the partial government shutdown? If you missed these tragic stories, the horrors included pressing their own elevator buttons, paying for shoeshines, and closure of the Congressional gym. Oh, the humanity!

The only problem is the last of these sacrifices was mythical. Either the gym never closed or, if it did, it has reopened. NBC Washington confirms that despite claims by the Committee on U.S. House Administration, which oversees the Capitol grounds, the private House Members Wellness Center is open for business. The station’s cameras even captured footage of House members walking in and out of the facility Tuesday afternoon.

Although the article notes that photography is prohibited inside the gym, reporters learned that in addition to your standard fitness equipment, the facility includes an indoor pool and basketball court. No wonder House members had trouble staying away.

David Williams of the nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers Protection Alliance told NBC:

It is clear that while the website says that the gym is closed, members of Congress, specifically House members, are still enjoying these creature comforts. No amount of secrecy will keep taxpayers from knowing the truth. The members-only gym remains open while other parts of the government remain closed.

Reporters intercepted Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) as he was exiting the gym and asked about this glaring double standard — that while veterans of foreign wars had to climb over barricades to visit monuments dedicated to their service to their country, House members refused to give up the slightest luxury. Waxman’s answer: “People shouldn’t worry if the Wellness Center is open. They should worry that the government is closed.” The congressman then said, “Look, a squirrel!”

Although the video accompanying the article plainly states that the decision to keep the facility open was made by the Architect of the Capitol, who declined to answer questions about why the gym is open, an update attempts to pin the blame for the dereliction on House Speaker John Boehner.

The addendum cites an email sent to Democratic legislative directors by fellow Dems Bill Foster (Ill.) and Patrick E. Murphy (D-Fla.) with the subject line “Tell Speaker Boehner: No Government, No Congressional Spa.” Here is the text:

Despite Speaker Boehner’s refusal to reopen the government by bringing a clean CR to the House floor, he believes Members of Congress should still receive Congressional Perks. He has deemed the Congressional spa used by Members of the House of Representatives to be “essential” during the shutdown. Not only are Members still able to access the taxpayer-funded gym, sauna and steam room while tens of thousands of federal employees remain furloughed, janitorial staff are still required to clean the gym and restock it with towels and other “essential items.”

That is why I am introducing the SPA Act (Shutdown Prioritization Act). This bill would prohibit the Architect of the Capitol from operating the Member gym during a government shutdown. It’s time to tell Speaker Boehner end the Congressional Perks and focus on getting the government up and running.

Political grandstanding aside, wouldn’t it be hilarious of the congressmens’ bill managed to pass the Senate at a time when that august legislative body is turning away measures that would fund for NIH research and FEMA?

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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