Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) is defending keeping the House gym open during the government shutdown — and lamented the gym's service cutbacks, including a cancellation of towel service.
Braley said he was glad the House gym had stayed open because it's one of the few places Democrats and Republicans build relationships. He ridiculed a letter circulated by some of his Democratic colleagues calling for the gym to close until the government can reopen.
"They must not have been down to the gym lately," Braley said when asked about the push.
"There's hardly anybody working down there. There's no towel service, 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."
Braley, the front-runner for an open Senate seat in Iowa, couldn't say exactly how much the gym membership cost, but estimated it was about $260 yearly.
Republicans pounced on the comment.
"It's unfortunate that Congressman Braley is more concerned with the towel service at the Members Only gym than he is getting government back to work for Iowa taxpayers," said David Young, one of the Republicans vying to face Braley in the general election, in a statement to supporters.
"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."
In a statement, Braley's office said the congressman's larger point had "nothing" to do with the House gym.
"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. People want Congress to get serious about ending the shutdown and are sick and tired of political attacks from Republicans that do nothing to bring people together," said Braley spokesman Jeff Giertz.
Updated at 5:28 p.m.