What’s the worst hardship in the government shutdown and the furloughing of federal workers?
For one congressman, it could be the lack of towels in the exclusive House of Representatives gym, which has nonetheless remained opened as the WWII Memorial, national parks, and other venues have been closed to American citizens.
Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Iowa, expressed concern about the lack of gym towels during an interview when he was asked about proposed legislation that would declare gym employees unessential federal workers.
Said Braley about the House workout area: “[The bill’s sponsors] must have not been down to the gym lately. There’s hardly anybody working down there. There’s no towel service. So we’re doing our own laundry down there. And we pay a fee to belong to the House gym. So this is no different than if you’re working for an employer that offers a wellness program, you pay a fee to belong. That’s what we do there.”
Lawmakers apparently pay a modest $260 fee to use the gym for an entire year.
Braley, who is running for US Senate and is considered to be frontrunner for the Democrats, claims that the gym is where he is able to build relationships with those on the opposite side of the political aisle.
The lawmaker has represented Iowa’s 1st Congressional District since 2007 and his seeking the seat now held by retiring Senator Tom Harkin.
David Young, one of Fraley’s possible Republican opponents said “If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will bring my own towel to my gym, and I will do everything I can to make sure the federal government passes on time budgets, gets our fiscal house in order, and averts government shutdowns.”
Another potential opponent, Sam Clovis, said “Towel service? Really? How out of touch with the people of Iowa can one person be?”
Fraley’s comments even inspired a Jimmy Kimmel skit (see embed below).
A spokesman for the congressman claimed that “Bruce’s point had nothing to do with the gym, but that the government shutdown is causing real pain for thousands of Iowa workers and the Iowa economy.”