If the government shuts down Friday, Senators would have to push their own buttons to take an elevator from the basement to the chamber and House Members would not be able to pump iron or shower at the Members-only gym, which would be closed.
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, whose office oversees the Senate’s doorkeepers, said elevator operators would be among the nonessential staff furloughed if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can’t reach a budget deal by Friday.
Across the Capitol, House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Wood confirmed that the gym would close, stranding the dozen or so Members who sleep in their offices and rely on the facility’s showers.
“Where is the local YMCA?” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), famous for using his office as his apartment, asked Wednesday. “Or maybe Sen. Reid will let me borrow some soap and suds up at his suite at the Ritz?”
The unwashed colleagues may have Members thankful at least that the chambers will remain temperature-controlled, but many of the shops that they frequent will be shuttered and services to which they are accustomed dramatically reduced.
Roughly 750 SAA employees and more than 1,000 workers from the Office of the Architect of the Capitol would be sent home, leaving remaining Members and staff without significant support.
“We pride ourselves in moving pretty quickly out here to meet the needs of the Senators, and we’re just going to have to say, ‘Sorry, it’s going to take longer,’” Gainer said.
Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) authorized the office to keep open only one door per Senate office building, which could cause some unusually long lines, Gainer said.
“I think staff is going to have to be patient in getting into the building or parking and reduce expectations,” Gainer said.
While that would certainly be an inconvenience for staffers, the measure could save the Capitol Police up to $700,000 per week in overtime costs, according to Gainer, chairman of the Capitol Police Board. He plans to hand out no overtime during a shutdown, and since the Capitol Police doesn’t plan to furlough any officers, it can at least alleviate pressure on the force by limiting the number of doors to patrol.
Members will also have to get in line to grandstand — or at least do it outside. Gainer said he would keep open only one television studio, reducing Senators' ability to have multiple press conferences. He said he would furlough most of the employees in the Senate Print Shop too, making the cardboard signs Senators are fond of brandishing while giving floor speeches a precious commodity.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.