government shutdown

Guess What? Republicans Have to Represent Federal Employees, Too

Senator Ed Markey represents these federal workers. But a lot of Republicans do, too. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

One of the fables some Republicans tell themselves in order to avoid any heartburn over the partial federal government shutdown is that those suffering from missed paychecks aren’t really their kind of people. Here’s one Republican who conspicuously expressed that sentiment a while back:

Beyond this assertion, there are broader conservative conspiracy theories holding that federal bureaucrats (presumably in alliance with those pesky minority folk who “vote themselves benefits”) elect Democratic members of Congress who will return the favor by creating and maintaining programs that provide these bureaucrats steady employment. It’s another way of telling Republican pols that there are broad swaths of the population they shouldn’t worry about.

A new analysis from the Pew Research Center, however, suggests that Republicans in Congress are just about as likely as Democrats to represent federal workers:

Looking at all current members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the average number of federal workers is roughly the same in districts represented by Democratic representatives (10,800) as it is in districts represented by Republican members (10,400), according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data. (Similarly, there is little partisan difference in the median number of federal workers represented.)

Could that be because Republicans represent a lot of those red-blooded federal employees who work on military bases rather than maintaining those wasteful bleeding-heart social programs? Nope:

The widely dispersed impact of the shutdown across congressional districts is evident even when accounting for House districts with military bases. (The Defense Department has a substantial civilian workforce and is not subject to the partial government shutdown.) Looking only at those districts with no military bases, the average number of federal workers differs little between those represented by Democrats (about 6,900 workers per district) or Republicans (about 6,700 per district).

The president, who doesn’t get around much, seems to think of federal workers as being concentrated in the D.C. suburbs mostly represented by Democrats. But there are Democrats in plenty of places where federal jobs just aren’t:

The House member with the most federal workers in his or her district is Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, whose Virginia district includes 86,900 federal workers. (Among districts with no military bases, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly’s neighboring Virginia district has the highest number of federal workers.) Yet a Democrat also represents the district with the lowest number of federal workers: Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s Southern California district has about 2,700 federal workers.

Pew doesn’t have data breaking down furloughed federal employees by location. But it stands to reason they will be scattered through Democratic and Republican districts as well. So your average GOP House member would be wise to take a good look at the public payroll back home before demagoguing too much about the paltry effects of the shutdown. It tends to make an enduring impression on people when you don’t allow them to go to work or force them to work without pay for an extended period of time.

Guess What? Republicans Represent Federal Employees, Too