The Washington Post

GOP lawmaker: No money for White House bowling alley renovations

President Richard Nixon with Joseph L. Taylor Sr. and Frank Blair at the bowling alley in the Old Executive Office Building. (National Archives/Jack Kightlinger)

A Republican congressman doesn’t want the White House staff to have any fun.

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) is offering an amendment to an appropriations bill barring any federal dollars be put toward renovations of the White House’s historic underground bowling alley.

The White House had put out requests for contractors to modernize the World War II-era bowling alley, first reported by Time last week. The General Services Administration wrote in a bid solicitation that it wanted to “replace the current, damaged and out dated lanes, approaches, pin setter platform (or pin deck) and gutters with new and modern products.”

There was no price tag attached, but immediate pushback from critics prompted the White House to quickly announce it was withdrawing the request.

The lanes, located under the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and used by staffers and their guests, are apparently in a state of disrepair. It’s so antiquated that bowlers even have to score by hand.

Notably, candidate Barack Obama wanted to rip out the bowling alley and replace it with a basketball court, but once he became president he must have deemed that would have been an unpopular move. (He may have just said that out of embarrassment after scoring a 37 while bowling on the 2008 campaign trail in Pennsylvania.)

Meehan says the country shouldn’t be paying for bowling alley upgrades.

“Smart budgeting means making choices and setting priorities. With our nation $17 trillion in debt, upgrading the President’s private bowling alley shouldn’t be a priority,” Meehan said in a statement Tuesday.

But if the congressman is looking to hold down the deficit, this effort isn’t likely to make much of a difference.

A bowling manufacturer told the Loop that to modernize the two lanes would cost at minimum $10,000, although naturally the price would go up based on any additional bells and whistles.

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

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