Biggest Shutdown Concern for Bruce Braley: No Towel Boys at his Gym

Bruce Braley / AP

One of Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D., Iowa) most pressing concerns about the government shutdown last October was the lack of towel service at the taxpayer-funded House gym.

This is the latest example that proves the Democratic Senate candidate is out of touch with Iowa voters, Republicans say.

Braley made the comments in October 2013 on the Bill Press Show, a liberal radio program:

"They must not have been down to the gym lately. 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 had also previously told the Des Moines Register in September 2012 that the House gym was "one of the most important places I go":

"And I’ve said this before: one of the most important places I go is to the House gym. Because down there I get to meet people outside of the floor. I get to learn about what they did before they came to Congress. I get to learn about why they wanted to run for Congress. I get to learn about their families. And it’s much easier to find partners to solve problems if you know and like the people you’re working with.

Despite Braley’s claim that the gym helped him reach across the aisle, Republicans noted that he has voted with Democrats at least 90 percent of the time throughout his four terms in Congress.

The GOP has also pounced on Braley for missing more than 75 percent of full Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings as the national scandal of mismanagement at medical centers began to emerge:

"After he skipped 75 percent of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings, Bruce Braley proudly said that one of the most important places he goes is his exclusive gym for Congress," said Iowa Republican Party spokesman Jahan Wilcox. "Given his commitment to the gym, it’s no wonder Braley was caught bellyaching about the lack of towel service during the government shutdown."

The towel gaffe is the latest in a series of questionable remarks that Republicans have used to paint Braley as elitist. At a January fundraiser, Braley called popular Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school"—comments that hit a nerve in the farmer-heavy state.

Braley is currently in a dead heat with Republican Joni Ernst for the Iowa Senate seat, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average. The race could be crucial for Republicans’ efforts to retake the Senate majority this fall.