House Democrats have a new strategy to force their fellow members of Congress to feel the pain of the shutdown — stripping them of their gym privileges.
Such a move would not just block members from burning carbs, though. It would also prevent the members who sleep in their offices from availing themselves of the showers that keep them from offending.
Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy of Florida and Bill Foster of Illinois are outraged that members are “still able to access the taxpayer-funded gym, sauna and steam room while tens of thousands of federal employees remain furloughed,” and the Capitol’s janitorial staff “are still required to clean the gym and restock it with towels and other ‘essential items.’”
The pair wrote a letter to gather support for their Shutdown Prioritization Act, or “SPA Act.”
The bill is a tool to prohibit Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, from ordering Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers to operate the gym during the shutdown.
Ayers has kept the private gym open to members since Oct. 1, despite the fact that AOC cleaning crews have been cut to skeletal levels in the wake of the shutdown.
Several members of Congress, whether in an effort to show they haven’t “gone Washington” or just because they’re too cheap to rent an apartment in the District, bunk in their congressional offices and opt to shower in the gym.
Some of them might be drying off with dirty towels, as laundry services have also been curtailed.
Others have been using the cardio machines to blow off steam, but even Congress’ most avid exercisers are noting that keeping the gym open amid nationwide furloughs is hard to rationalize.
“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,” Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer wrote his fellow members on Tuesday. “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.”
The congressman, an avid cyclist who commutes to work on a bike and sports an omnipresent bicycle lapel pin, is collecting signatures for a letter to Boehner that respectfully requests the Ohio Republican shutter the doors of the gym. With furloughed workers worrying about paychecks and vulnerable folks waiting for essential services, Blumenauer said it seems “a small price for members to pay to do without this services as long as the shutdown continues.”
Not all Democrats are on board. Rep. Bruce Braley said the gym is one of the “few places where Republicans and Democrats actually talk to each other,” during a Wednesday interview with radio talk show host Bill Press.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.