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

  1. Kim wilson says:

    The problem is the gym is open regardless of what the sign says….the poor towel boy/attendant has been layed off but, the fat cats can still use the gym. Unlike the playgrounds at headstart across the country….where the equipment stands closed to children and their parents because the programs gave been shut down. Shame on all of you.

  2. Sean A. says:

    I’m confused – the photo says both the fitness center and the wellness center are closed. what’s the problem here?

  3. rmthunter says:

    You seem not to have read most of my comment.

  4. ezpz says:

    Piecemeal funding is just what the teabaggers want — that way, they can fund what they like …

    So then why did the president single handedly and piecemeal style ‘fix’ the widow/er’s benefit payments? Answer: because his approval numbers are tanking. That’s why.

    And I see you bought into the awful rhetoric that this president and his party are freely tossing around, like hostage taking, suicide bombers, extremists, anarchists, arsonists, holding a gun to our heads, etc., etc., etc. You might think these analogies are “pretty apt” but call me old fashioned, I think they’re disgusting and beneath the office of the presidency to talk that way — ESPECIALLY when people literally ARE being taken hostage, ARE having guns pointed at their heads and worse, being discharged.

    It’s a sad state of affairs when a president and a political party use this over the top rhetoric, and worse, when the blind followers follow.
    Pathetic, actually.

  5. fletcher says:

    The only tanning they deserve is with a birch rod.

  6. LanceThruster says:

    “You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.” — Malcolm S. Forbes

  7. rmthunter says:

    I notice you refer to Dana Bash as a “reporter” with the appropriate sarcasm quotes — Bash was looking for a “gotcha,” playing on the cancer kids, and Reid wasn’t playing. That whole exchange is nothing more than the Republican tactic of blaming the Democrats for the shutdown.

    Piecemeal funding is just what the teabaggers want — that way, they can fund what they like — their own perks, including the military contractors who are supporting their campaigns (after all, in teabagger land, the only part of the executive we need is the DoD, right?) — and let everyone else go whistle. It’s nothing less than a frontal assault on representative democracy. I have to support Reid on this one, although he’s hardly my favorite person in Congress — you fund the government, all of it. You don’t hold everyone in the country hostage to get a result that most of the people in this country oppose (ostensibly, getting rid of the ACA, but I don’t buy that for a second). You don’t like a program, then you offer amendments to remove it and let the people’s representatives vote on it. The analogy between the teabagger caucus and suicide bombers was pretty apt, except that these particular suicide bombers have achieved the emotional development of two-year-olds.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Finally, someone refusing to sugarcoat it.

  9. ComradeRutherford says:

    Kids dying of cancer have no effect on Republican politicians because they are sociopaths. However, the House Gym is a HUGE problem.

  10. pappyvet says:

    Must be where the tanning bed is

  11. karmanot says:

    Make that a $5’er. They are so full of s**t.

  12. dcinsider says:

    Boy, sometimes I think those Republicans are just mean.

  13. ezpz says:

    I don’t see how it’s a non sequitur when the title of your piece says:

    Boehner deems House gym “essential” while cutting funds for kids’ cancer treatments at NIH

    I brought up Reid’s remarks because you clearly state that it was Boehner who cut the NIH funding. Reid, when asked about a house bill to restore funding for the NIH, not only said he wouldn’t do that without opening the entire govt, but was very condescending and flip to the ‘reporter’ who asked him about it.

    I believe the Ds did some piece-mealing of their own, so I stand by my original comment that the dems are not blameless as you seem to imply. In fact, many fellow dems had a hard time defending Reid’s very nasty remarks about (not) funding the NIH.

  14. Monoceros Forth says:

    That’s one of the things that’s so hilarious (in a perverse and sickening way) about all the Republican polticians who whinge about how “government” is so evil: most of them have never had a job outside of the government they purport to despise. All they’ve ever done is run for government offices, yet they still pretend as though they’re brave insurgents and outsiders, called forth to reluctant public service to fight against the evils of Big Government.

  15. The_Fixer says:

    More like a spray-tan booth.

    Damn, that was almost too easy.

  16. The_Fixer says:

    Elegant thought, but you know that they’d find a way to charge it back to taxpayers.

  17. says:

    I wonder how much “wide stancing” has been going on in that sauna.

  18. maria says:

    I think he’d prefer a tanning saloon.

  19. maria says:

    Rep. Ryan must like soup kitchens as he is working to create so many new customers for them. Ryan’s problem is that he has never done an honest days work in the real world. Besides driving an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile for 10 weeks one summer he has worked for government and government officials ever since. Had he taken a job in the Oscar Meyer factory in Madison, WI that summer he’d know what work was instead of how to sell bologna and wouldn’t be so hard on working stiffs asking for a decent income and coverage for health emergencies at reasonable prices.

  20. cole3244 says:

    i can see why the house gym would be essential since the gop is in control of the house the peoples business is an after thought if it is on the table at all.
    elites are at the head of the class and serviced by the gop and their dem supporters while acting like there is a real difference between the one party system in america, there isn’t

  21. emjayay says:

    Also, he helps out at soup kitchens.

  22. Actually, that’s a non sequitur to the topic at hand, what does Reid have to do with the House gym? Second, his quote was about playing people off of each other, he wan’t responding to the kids thing. Third, why should Harry Reid or anyone play the Republicans’ game of piecemeal opening the parts of the government that give them the most heartburn in the polls? That’s absurd. And it’s a recipe for leaving all the democratic programs closed forever.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Bottled waters.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Nothing closes for the rich. And the poor exist to kiss their heinies, of course.

  25. ezpz says:

    *chuckles* here, too. Thanks. I needed that.

  26. Monoceros Forth says:

    *chuckles* I don’t know why he immediately popped to mind. If anyone else has the given name “Deems” I don’t know about it.

  27. ezpz says:

    Haha. I had to look that one up, though if I were to ask my nephew, who is extremely well versed in all aspects of classical music, he would know it immediately, I’m sure.

  28. Monoceros Forth says:

    Deems Taylor.

  29. Monoceros Forth says:

    But you’re forgetting Paul Ryan! According to himself he’s climbed every mountain in the world, runs three-minute miles, can bench-press a ’53 Buick yet still has spare time to disprove the Riemann hypothesis–he’s such a brilliant wonk don’t you know–and liberate Paris from the Nazis during his lunch break.

  30. Bill_Perdue says:

    The criminal cruelty of the Republicans and their shutdown and the Democrats with their austerity measures, union busting and wars of aggression are only matched by their repeated attempts at political suicide.

    They’ll succeed and sooner rather than later.

    Democrats are the enemy and so are Republicans.

  31. ezpz says:

    Who does the ‘deeming’ of what is or is not essential?

  32. Indigo says:

    Bleh . . . !

  33. ezpz says:

    Sorry, John, but to imply that the dems are blameless by putting this all on the gop is disingenuous at best. They’re ALL culpable, and worse yet, they’re all on the same page, though they’re doing a great job of making it look like there’s a stalemate trying to get hashed out. There isn’t.
    Remember that little exchange between Dana Bash and Harry Reid about children’s clinical trials and the NIH?

    …Pressed further if Reid would move legislation if it meant helping even one child, the Nevada Democrat grew more irate.

    “Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting at home. They have a few problems of their own. To have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing means you’re as irresponsible and reckless,” he said to Bash.

  34. eahopp says:

    And a tanning salon!

  35. ArthurH says:

    What is funny is that the Teabaggers likely don’t use the gym. Every time somebody suggests ways to stay healthy, the TPs consider that liberal propaganda and run out to eat a bag of fried pork rind snacks and wash it down with a Dr. Pepper Big Gulp. But it does save them from embarrassment. If somebody caught a photo of several of them doing sit-ups in the Congressional gym it might turn up on the Internet captioned “Exercising With Dumbbells.”

  36. ArthurH says:

    Don’t forget the warm tar and chicken feathers!

  37. WakeUpAmerica says:

    We should be making the House members pay a dollar to use the restrooms.

  38. slappymagoo says:

    Of course the gym for Congresspeople is essential, when you’re getting ready to run from villagers brandishing pitchforks and torches, you gotta keep your cardio regiment strong.

  39. emjayay says:

    I thoiught “wellness center” was more of a name for some kind of clinic, not saunas and Stairmasters. Try your bathtub and some real stairs, Boehner.

  40. PeteWa says:

    if Boehner considered it essential, it must serve drinks, right?

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