The House gym is “essential.” Kids’ cancer treatments? Not so much.

Judd Legum reports that the decision to deem the US House of Representatives gym “essential,” and thus keep it open during the federal government shutdown, came directly from Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

By being deemed “essential,” the House gym was permitted to continue to operate while new cancer trials for children at the National Cancer Institute were deemed “non-essential” and shut down.

Interestingly, the House staff gym has been closed and deemed “non-essential.”  Sadly, the House Dry Cleaner service has also been deemed non-essential (other than one day last week for a few hours so people could pick up their clothes – which is interesting, since hundreds of thousands of federal employees aren’t getting their paychecks, but members of Congress receiving getting their their dry cleaned shirts is “essential”).


I’m kind of wondering which House members used their gym during the shutdown.

Now, interestingly, Politico says that the House Gym is actually called the “Members Wellness Center.”  But the Members Wellness Center is reportedly shut down, per the House Web site.  A little misinformation to cover their behinds?

The House gym — or Members’ Wellness Center, as the on-duty attendant calls it upon picking up the phone — offers a sanctuary for any current or former member of that chamber to escape staffers, constituents and reporters.

In addition to weights, a pool and a basketball court, the House Gym also has a sauna and steam room. Yes, very essential that the very important Republicans in the House get their sauna.

A friend on the Hill just sent me this live shot of the House gym, aka the Members Wellness Center.  Quite a non-descript place, good ole SB-319.  Though apparently not non-descript enough.  An NBC News crew was camped out, my staffer friend says, waiting to pounce on the first member coming in or going out.  Guess those Tea Party boys, who use the House gym, on the taxpayer’s own dime, as their personal home shower – they live in their offices, so they’re quite literally living on your dime – are going to be getting a wee bit ripe over the next few days.

The US House Gym, aka Members Wellness Center.

The US House Gym, aka Members Wellness Center.

Among those services not deemed as essential as the US House gym:

Head Start centers in Chicago:

The partial shutdown of the federal government caused Chicago-area Head Start programs to close Monday and threatened to force additional layoffs of state workers.

WIC Programs.

NIH cancer treatments and flu program:

Health: The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients for clinical research and stop answering hotline calls about medical questions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will stop its seasonal flu program and have a “significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.” 

A bit more from NBC:

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they could handle recalls and high-risk foodborne outbreaks, but they are less likely to discover them because most of the people who investigate outbreaks have been furloughed.

Routine food safety inspections conducted by FDA are suspended, so most food manufacturers won’t have to worry about periodic visits from government inspectors to make sure their facilities are clean. U.S. food inspections abroad have also been halted.

USDA’s federal meat inspections are proceeding as usual, however. USDA inspectors are on the lines every day in meatpacking plants and are required to be there by law for the plants to stay open.

The Education Department has said that a shutdown beyond a week would “severely” curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on department funds. For example, colleges rely on department funds to pay ongoing expenses for staff in programs for disadvantaged students. The department would not make additional details available on Friday about the number of districts, colleges and universities and vocational rehabilitation agencies that could more immediately feel the impact of a shutdown.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has enough money to operate through the end of October, according to USDA. The department distributed almost $400 million in federal unexpended and contingency dollars this week to states to cover any shortfalls. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts should have enough funding to be served, USDA says, and food stamps will continue to be distributed through October. But both programs could face shortfalls if the shutdown continues into November.

If only those greedy cancer kids would settle for a gym membership instead of a cure.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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