Exclusive House, Senate Gyms Remain Open During Shutdown

Oct 8, 2013 2:01pm
ap government shutdown1 wy 131001 16x9 608 Exclusive House, Senate Gyms Remain Open During Shutdown

                                             (Image Credit: Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

An exclusive gym for members of the U.S. House of Representatives was supposed to be a casualty of the government shutdown, shuttered like much of the rest of “non-essential” Washington until Congress passed a measure to pay its bills.

But the gym, known as the Members’ Wellness Center, remains open with its flat-screen TVs, workout machines and heated swimming pool available for lawmakers’ use and enjoyment, ABC News has learned.

A congressional source said the facilities are not staffed but were kept operational to accommodate lawmakers who live in their offices while Congress is in session. “It would stink to high-heaven around here if Members couldn’t use those showers,” the source said. “Can you imagine that?”

Other athletic amenities were also kept accessible. “How do you close a basketball court?” the source said. Meanwhile, a gym for congressional staffers is closed.

Published guidance from the House Committee on Administration on expected levels of service during a “lapse in appropriations,” or shutdown, indicates that a staff fitness center and the Members’ Wellness Center should be “closed.

The decision to keep the gyms open was made by the Architect of the Capitol, according to a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.

The gym for members of the U.S. Senate is also still open but unmaintained.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told ABC News that no one is cleaning or staffing the facility. “It’s getting to be a pretty rank place,” he said.

Graham joked that “maybe if the gym gets so stinky you can’t use it,” then lawmakers would be forced to break the logjam on the budget and debt limit.

The health and fitness facilities for members of Congress are run and managed by the Architect of the Capitol, who did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on their operations during a shutdown.

The gyms are taxpayer-subsidized from funding streams across various budgets, making the exact cost of the facilities difficult to nail down. House members pay a monthly $20 fee to use the gym, while Senators pay $40 a month.  The Architect of the Capitol has previously declined to discuss the actual cost per member, citing “security reasons.”

News that the gyms have remained open during the shutdown was first reported by ThinkProgress.

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer contributed reporting.

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