Democrats demand House gym’s closing
Two House Democrats want the congressional gym closed until the shutdown impasse is over.
Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) are circulating a letter that asks House Speaker John Boehner to deem the House spa non-essential for the duration of the shutdown.“Members of Congress should not enjoy access to their exclusive gym and spa while Capitol police go without pay, children are being turned away from Head Start and veterans are left wondering if their benefits will come in the mail on November 1st,” said Foster in a statement.
The two members circulated a letter to colleagues Tuesday seeking additional sponsors for the legislation.
“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,” the two Democrats wrote to colleagues Tuesday. “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,’” Murphy and Foster write in the letter.
The two members have to introduce the Shutdown Prioritization Act — or SPA Act for short — that would prohibit the Architect of the Capitol from keeping the congressional gym open, according to the letter.
Liberal website ThinkProgress first reported Tuesday that the gyms on both the House and Senate side remained open to members – all while thousands of employees have been furloughed from Capitol Hill.
Dozens of House members — many freshman Republicans — sleep in their offices when Congress is in session and use the House gym to shower rather than obtaining a Washington D.C. apartment.
Boehner’s office declined to comment, referring questions to the Architect of the Capitol.
Eva Malecki, a communications officer for the Architect of the Capitol, said: “When Members join the gym they are given key fobs that permit them to access the facility. 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.”