No shutdown for House gym rats

Posted at 8:24 PM, Oct 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-09 20:24:25-04

(CNN) — The government shutdown has stopped critical services for countless Americans.

But fortunately for members of the House of Representatives – the men and women who helped cause the shutdown – access continues to their taxpayer-subsidized Capitol Hill gym.

A senior Republican House aide confirmed to CNN Tuesday that while nobody is currently staffing the gym, House members are being allowed in for workouts and showers.

The gym is being cleaned, but towel service has been suspended.

House staffers aren’t so lucky. Their gym has been deemed off limits for the duration of the shutdown.

Another House aide told CNN the decision to allow access to the members’ gym was made by Speaker John Boehner’s office, which is responsible for overseeing the shutdown on the House side of the Capitol.

Several House members have been known to sleep in their offices and shower in the private Hill gym – which is hidden away in the bowels of the Rayburn House Office Building — when Congress is in session.

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Architect’s Office tells CNN that members get access keys to the gym when they join, and that some members keep personal items in the gym. The spokeswoman added that allowing members access to such personal items factored into the decision to allow continued access to the gym as well.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, brought the issue to the House floor on Wednesday, arguing that “some of the most fanatic” lawmakers in the shutdown debate are regular users of the gym.

“Mr. Speaker if you and the House Republicans are serious and not cynical about the shutdown, then shut down the House gym until this madness ends,” he said.

Speaking to CNN Wednesday morning, Republican Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida said that “for people to raise issues over the gym is somewhat petty,” although Southerland said he does not have a gym membership.

The House gym’s exemption from the shutdown was first reported in the progressive blog ThinkProgress.

–CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.