Republicans Who Want Shutdown Risk Their Constituents’ Paychecks

The small band of House Republicans agitating for a government shutdown loves to bash federal spending, but some of their own constituents’ paychecks hang in the balance.

(Bloomberg) — The small band of House Republicans agitating for a government shutdown loves to bash federal spending, but some of their own constituents’ paychecks hang in the balance.

Among the 100 House members with the most civilian federal workers in their districts, 52 are Republicans, according to a Bloomberg Government analysis of Census Bureau data. A shutdown, which would shut off pay for most of those workers, looks likely as Congress careens toward the Oct. 1 deadline.

Representative Matt Gaetz, the Florida Congressman who has worked against his party leadership’s effort to move a temporary stopgap funding measure, has the third highest percentage of federal civilian workers in his district among Republicans, behind only Representatives Jen Kiggans of Virginia and Dale Strong of Alabama, whose district includes NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal.

Democrats dominate the top 10 with the most federal workers led by Representative Steny Hoyer, whose Maryland district outside Washington, is home to 80,000 feds, 20% of the district’s civilian workforce, according to the Census data.

Kiggans, whose district is home to a large military community including Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, beat an incumbent Democrat in 2022. She introduced legislation to make sure military members and civilians who work for the Pentagon would get paid in a shutdown. “Our service members shouldn’t suffer because of Washington’s dysfunction,” she said in a statement.

Though Gaetz hails from a solid red district, he expects a shutdown that includes Defense Department personnel “will cause pain” for his constituents, he said in a statement. His district includes Eglin Air Force Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station. “This is why I’m doing all I can to prioritize and pass the single subject defense appropriations bill, even though it includes some provisions I oppose.”

Representative Andy Harris, who is a member of the Freedom Caucus and is chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, has more than 25,000 civilian federal workers in his Maryland district, some of which is in commuting distance to Washington. 

Representative Bob Good, a hard-line Republican from Virginia who’s downplayed effects of a shutdown on his constituents, has a smaller share of government employees than some of his home state colleagues. Good’s district is home to 6,700 workers, less than 2% of the workforce there.

The proportion of federal workers in a lawmaker’s district is unlikely to be the main motivating force in whether they view a shutdown as a political plus or minus.

Representative Eli Crane — whose Arizona district includes more than 14,000 federal workers, putting him among the top 60 House members — said he doesn’t think a shutdown would hurt his party politically.

Asked if he’s hearing concerns from federal workers in his district, Crane said, “No, I’ve been hearing from the voters of my district that they’re tired of this place, tired of the overspending and they want to see change.”

Crane is in a firm GOP district. While he doesn’t need to worry about a shutdown turning his district blue, more moderate lawmakers in swing districts are in a tougher spot.

“They understand the consequences and are more sensitive to the serious consequences of a government shutdown than these Freedom Caucus folks,” said Charles Hunt, an assistant professor at Boise State University.

Representative Mike Lawler, a freshman Republican who flipped a New York seat in 2022, doesn’t have many federal workers in his district, though he said a shutdown could endanger vulnerable members like him. Lawler’s district is home to about 5,800 federal workers, about 1.6% of his district’s civilian workers.

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