Congress keeps its 'essential' private gyms open during shutdown

As the Republican-led shutdown of the federal government grinds into its second week, reports surfaced Tuesday that the taxpayer-supported private gyms that are provided for members of Congress have maintained their regular operating hours.

Judd Legum at Think Progress reported Tuesday that while kids with cancer, underprivileged schoolchildren and the families of U.S. soldiers slain in battle have been watching Congress use their government aid as a political football, those Congressmen and women have had full, uninterrupted access to steam rooms, saunas, free weights, exercise machines and heated swimming pools.

The decision to keep the gym open, said one aide, came directly from Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)'s office, as did the decision to close the gym set aside for Congressional staff.

A lack of towel service at the House members' gym has been the only tangible evidence of the shutdown, which began last week when the Democratically-controlled Senate refused to ratify a House-led effort to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Senate gym also remains open and is reportedly being cleaned every day, but Sen. Lindsay Graham complained to the media that the lack of fresh towels was making the gym "increasingly rank."

Legum reported that the cost of keeping the well-appointed private gyms is "shrouded in secrecy."

Members of the House Republican caucus who led the shutdown are known to use the facilities, if only to shower on nights they sleep in their offices. Prior to the 2012 election, erstwhile vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan famously boasted of leading "a dozen or so" fellow congressmen in the P90X workout routine each morning.

[image of out of shape man working out via]