"Essential" Gym For Congress Members Still Open Despite Govt Shutdown; Dems Call On Boehner To Close Workout Facility

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While food and airline safety inspectors stay home, national parks remain closed and basic scientific research grinds to a halt, a private gym reserved exclusively for members of the House of Representatives remains open.

A gym for Senators is also still open.

Though congress members pay small monthly fees, the gyms are run largely on taxpayer dollars.

Now Democrats are pressuring House Speaker John Boehner (pictured) to shut down the House gym, which they say cannot possibly fall under the definition of “essential” services which are allowed to continue during the ongoing government shutdown.

The House was quick to close the gym used by its staff members, even as the gym for members kept its doors open.

“This is not a trivial matter,” wrote Democratic Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer in a letter to Boehner obtained by the liberal web site ThinkProgress. “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.”

While staffing for the gym has been cut and towel service is no longer available, lighting, heating — including keeping the private, heated pool open for swimming — are still running and being billed. Cleaning and maintenance of the gym has not stopped, despite the shutdown.

The decision to keep the gym open, while coming from the Architect of the Capitol, was made with the direct involvement of Boehner’s office, according to ThinkProgress. According to a statement by the Architect, the gym remains “unlocked” because congress members “keep personal items there.”

Two other Democratic reps have introduced a bill, the Shutdown Prioritization Act, that would close the gym now and in any shutdowns in the future.

“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,” wrote Reps Patrick Murphy (D-FL) and Bill Foster (D-IL). “He has deemed the Congressional spa used by Members of the House of Representatives to be ‘essential’ during the shutdown.”

SOURCES: ThinkProgress (2), ABC News, Slate