Congressional Gym Deemed Essential During Shutdown.

Via on Oct 9, 2013
Calvin Coolidge and Speaker of the House Frederick Gillett exercise in the Congressional Gym ca. 1923.
Calvin Coolidge and Speaker of the House Frederick Gillett exercise in the Congressional Gym, 1923.

The government shutdown is affecting many people—from Head Start programs (and children), the National Parks (and employees, joggers and bikers), the EPA and WIC—just to name a few. 

Yet the Congressional Gym has been deemed essential.

Judd Legum’s article on ThinkProgress became viral after he wrote:

“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.”

ABC news reported more than two years ago that while the gym is taxpayer funded, costs of operation remain a secret.

“The House and Senate gymnasiums are taxpayer-subsidized perks shrouded in secrecy. The public and press are not allowed inside to even see what they look like and their costs are buried in various budgets.

The gyms are kept out of plain sight. There are no signs outside the doors and the only way to get inside is for members to get buzzed in.

Although ABC News was not allowed inside, those who have been admitted said they’re both equipped with flat-screen TVs, workout machines and a swimming pool.

The costs for the gyms are well in excess of the $20 a month House members pay and the $40 a month senators are charged, congressional sources told ABC News. The membership fees are placed in an Architect of the Capitol revolving fund that covers equipment replacement or purchases.” 

And while surely few are suggesting that members of Congress should have no perks or benefits, this particular shutdown “essential” has many outraged and confused many as to how this could possibly have been approved.

Legum’s article reported that:

“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.”

Interestingly, the gym for the Congressional staff has been closed.

“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.’” 

Still, there are some Congressional benefits that have been temporarily withheld. (Remember what I wrote earlier about not believing everything you read.) 

Unfortunately, though, the truth in this story gets filed under “you can’t make this shit up.”

Like enlightened society on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She's also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she's also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer then make sure to check out her writing, as she's finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and on her new website.

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5 Responses to “Congressional Gym Deemed Essential During Shutdown.”

  1. Food for needy mothers and children? Non-essential. Death benefits for the families of servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan last weekend? Non-essential. Keeping the gym running for a bunch of over-privileged politicians who are currently failing miserably to do their jobs with any integrity or effectiveness? Well, hell…that's pretty essential.

    Way to go, Congress! Keep that streak of helping Americans looking like the biggest morons on earth going!

    • Seriously! And the death benefits (and even properly paid for caskets, etc) is just beyond unbelievable.
      I'm sorry, but the Congressional staff gym being closed just says so much.

  2. Christina says:

    One explanation that has been offered: many on the Hill live in their offices to save housing costs and thus require the gym showers on a daily basis. Here's one article on that. (I heard a Congressman mention this in an interview today when asked this question, as well.) http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/21/members-of-

    • That's a horrible explanation and was mentioned in some of the links I included. Here's a quote from the main article I referenced: "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."

      Sorry, but that's a pathetic reason.

  3. amphibi1yogini says:

    Can't help but remember how vice-presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan didn't need that gym. He had Tony Horton and P90X on his DVD player … !

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