The Exchange

Not Quite All the Government Is Closed – Congress Keeps Its Gym Open

Normally packed with tourists, the stairs leading from the Capitol Visitors Center up to the Capitol Rotunda are empty as the government shutdown enters a second week, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Washington. The government partially shut down last week amid Washington gridlock and faces a make-or-break deadline later this month about the nation's borrowing power. Republicans have refused to budge without concessions on Democrats' health care law. Democrats have resisted GOP efforts to dismantle that health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Normally packed with tourists, the stairs leading from the Capitol Visitors Center up to the Capitol Rotunda are empty as the government shutdown enters a second week, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Washington. The government partially shut down last week amid Washington gridlock and faces a make-or-break deadline later this month about the nation's borrowing power. Republicans have refused to budge without concessions on Democrats' health care law. Democrats have resisted GOP efforts to dismantle that health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The government shutdown has closed national parks, forced food stamp recipients to go without and stopped companies from performing citizenship checks on new employees.

But the federal government is making exceptions for critical services -- such as the the private gyms used by members of Congress.

The House gym, which includes basketball courts, a swimming pool and weight machines, remains open despite the government shutdown, according to the Thinkprogress blog, which spoke to a House aide. A gym used by Congressional staffers, however, has been closed.

Towel service is unavailable but taxpayers are covering the costs of cleaning and maintenance, along with the electricity to keep the lights on and the pool heated.

A similar facility for senators is also open, the blog reported.

The news generated immediate outrage on Twitter.

And the decision to keep the gyms open is hardly the only head scratcher that's come to light. The U.S. Army on October 7 ordered a mechanical bull for the Utah National Guard. The bull cost $47,174 according to a post on the General Services Administration web site.

Lt. Col. Hank McIntire of the Utah National Guard told CNSNews.com that the mechanical bull functioned as a recruiting tool at state fairs and other events.

“It draws attention to their message,” McIntire told the web site.

The previous mechanical bull was broken down and had to be replaced, he said.

And in Texas, a woman had to be airlifted to safety after she and her husband got lost for days in a state park they visited because a nearby national park was closed.

Cathy Frye, a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper, and her husband, photographer Rick McFarland, had previously hiked in the Big Bend National Park, but it was closed due to the shutdown. Instead, they followed a path into Big Bend Ranch State Park, where they soon became lost and ran out of water, the Arkansas Business website reported.

McFarland went for help. Agents from the Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety searched for Frye, who had to be rescued by helicopter when she was found sunburned, bruised and suffering from severe dehydration.

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