Members of Congress are circulating letters calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to close the members-only gym as long as the shutdown continues.
As ThinkProgress reported Tuesday, the shutdown closed the Congressional staff gym, but, thanks to Boehner’s office, the members’ gym has remained open through the shutdown. After uproar over the still-running gym, a spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol explained in an email to ThinkProgress, “The decision not to lock Members out was made because they keep personal items there, but Members have been made aware that the facility will be unstaffed until the government reopens, as its employees are paid with appropriated funds, which are unavailable during the shutdown.” According to a House aide, the gym is being cleaned daily by maintenance staff and, of course, it costs money to heat the pool and keep the lights on.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) sent an email asking his colleagues to sign on to a letter telling Boehner to close the gym, as “it is hard to rationalize the gym rises above other important services that are closed.”
Full letter below:
As somebody who has begun every day in the House gym since I first arrived in Congress, I know what an important institution it is. Not just for the health and fitness of members, but as a tool to bring people together in a setting that doesn’t have to be partisan or contentious. Nonetheless, it seems to me inappropriate to continue to have the House Members gym open when the gym for our staff members has been closed. And as our constituents across the country–from furloughed workers who are worried about their next paycheck to our most vulnerable who are waiting for essential services–struggle with the government shutdown, it seems to me a small price for members to pay to do without this service as long as the shutdown continues.
I would urge you to join me in signing this letter to Speaker Boehner to close the House Member Gym for the duration of the shutdown. The text of the letter is below for your review. Please contact David Skillman (David.Skillman@mail.house.gov) if you have any questions or wish to sign on.
Dear Speaker Boehner:
While we all appreciate the importance of the House gym as a service for the physical and emotional well being of members, it seems highly inappropriate that the House gym continues to be open in the midst of a government shutdown. I respectfully request that you close the House gym until the government shutdown has ended.
This is not a trivial matter. It is an important part being able to maintain a sense of balance and important avenue of communication during times of stress and there have been few times more stressful than those we are enduring right now.
Nonetheless, it is time to close the House gym, be consistent to what we have done to our own staff members, and consistent with other services that are denied the American public. It is hard to rationalize the gym rises above other important services that are closed.
Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) and Bill Foster (D-IL) went a step further, introducing a bill called the SPA Act (Shutdown Prioritization Act) to close the gym for this and any future shutdowns. The congressmen sent out the following letter to House staffers:
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.
On Wednesday afternoon, Boehner reiterated his resistance to ending the shutdown without extracting some kind of concession for Republicans.