When the federal government shut down in October, most Republican lawmakers were busy deriding Obamacare and pointing fingers at their Democratic counterparts.
One Republican congressman, however, had a different focus: the federal workforce. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who recently announced he would not seek reelection after his current term expires in January 2015, was an original co-sponsor on a bill to ensure back pay for furloughed federal workers, and language granting such pay made it into the final deal to reopen government.
That was hardly the first time Wolf looked out for federal employees. Earlier this year, he spearheaded efforts to avoid furloughs at agencies such as the Justice Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And most recently, he joined a chorus of Democrats and federal employee advocacy groups in denouncing plans to raise pension contributions for current workers as part of the House-Senate budget agreement. The final deal only targeted new hires.
Throughout his 34 years in Congress representing Northern Virginia -- home to thousands of federal employees -- Wolf has been a loud advocate for the public-sector workforce, often forming a bridge between Democrats and the not always fed-friendly Republican Party.
Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., another federal employee advocate, commended Wolf’s bipartisan work on behalf of those in the Washington, D.C., area.
“I have been proud to work with Frank on a range of issues, including fighting for fair pay and benefits for federal employees, promoting telecommuting and improving transportation,” Hoyer said in a statement on Wolf’s forthcoming retirement. “His advocacy was critical to our success…And he has been an indefatigable advocate for his constituents, his state and his country.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat also representing the Washington suburbs in Virginia, praised Wolf for his ability to reach across the aisle, calling him a “tireless champion of federal employees.”
On Wolf’s own website, he wrote he is “proud to be known as one of the strongest supporters of federal employees and retirees in the Congress.” He pointed to legislation he helped to pass including establishing relocation services for feds, reforming the merit pay system, setting up more than 90 daycare centers in government facilities and expanding telework.
With Wolf out of the House, it is unclear who, if anyone, will hold the mantle for the Republicans' top federal employee advocate. Two other Virginia Republicans in the House, Reps. Rob Wittman and Scott Rigell, have offered support to feds in the past, though not to the same extent as Wolf.
In a statement, Wittman said Wolf’s “work can never be replicated,” but added the long-serving lawmaker has “been a true friend and mentor to me during my time in Congress.”
Wolf’s successor is also likely to stand up for the federal workforce given the number of public servants in the district, though as a freshman lawmaker the replacement would not have nearly the political influence. Additionally, with Wolf out of the mix, prognosticators have said Democrats could take the seat.