The shutdown continues, and things aren't getting any better for congressional staffers. Most are furloughed, and the ones that are still working have to pick up the slack — for one intern that meant vacuuming Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold's office. The Senate has teenagers toiling away in its chambers. But the latest indignity is that while the gym for members of Congress remains open, the staffers' gym is closed during the shutdown. Staffers and members of Congress often use these gyms to shower while working long hours (or sleeping overnight) in the Capitol.
The National Review's Jonathan Strong reports that staffers are still paying for the gym. One House GOP aide complained:
"I’m at work but not getting paid, will lose my health care at the end of the year, probably pay double for it, and I can’t even take it out on gym equipment I pay for."
That poor staffer knows what the GOP's been up to: a major point of contention in the shutdown debate is whether or not lawmakers and staffers should receive federal subsidies for their health care. Republican Sens. David Vitter and Ted Cruz think they should not. House Speaker John Boehner privately fought to keep the subsidies, but publicly encouraged the GOP to slash them. Taking away the subsidies would result in what's essentially a big pay cut for staffers.
Democrats in the House have proposed a bill to close the gym for members of Congress, labeling it the Shutdown Prioritization Act, or SPA Act (ha ha). Reps. Patrick Murphy and Bill Foster say it's inappropriate that House members are "still able to access the taxpayer-funded gym, sauna and steam room while tens of thousands of federal employees remain furloughed."
Meanwhile, Rep. Bruce Baley is complaining that his gym doesn't have towel service during the shutdown (at right). Oh, and he pays a whopping $260 a year for it.