Federal employees to lose champion in Congress as lawmaker announces retirement
Jennifer Wexton will step down due to a rare medical condition.
A top advocate for federal employees will retire when her term expires next year, with the three-term congresswoman citing a serious medical condition for the exit.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., represents among the most federal employees of any member of Congress and has used her time to repeatedly push legislation to boost the civil service. Wexton shared on Monday she recently received a diagnosis of Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy, type-p, a rare disease the lawmaker likened to “Parkinson’s on steroids” that has degraded her health and forced her to not seek a fourth term.
Wexton will leave behind a legacy as one of the most vocal supporters of federal employees in Congress, including fighting against proposed changes during the Trump administration and working with the Biden administration to strengthen civil service protections. She has fought for bigger raises for federal workers, including a proposal for an 8.7% increase in 2024. Wexton took a particular interest in efforts to relocate federal agencies outside of the capital area, leading a push against the move of two Agriculture Department agencies to Kansas City and subsequently introducing legislation that would require more steps and oversight before such a relocation could take place.
The congresswoman has fought to protect federal telework and led a campaign to increase the maximum number of leave hours employees could roll over during the COVID-19 pandemic. She successfully helped lead the effort to pass paid parental leave for feds and played a key role in securing commitments to strengthen the civil service from candidate Joe Biden prior to the election.
Wexton has fought against government shutdowns, even one time suggesting no employees should receive exemptions from furloughs when funding lapses do occur in order to demonstrate the importance of those jobs. Just last week, Wexton highlighted the impact a shutdown at the end of the month could have on federal workers.
“As the representative to tens of thousands of federal employees, I’m especially concerned about a shutdown hitting our district hardest and forcing families to go without paychecks just for the sake of partisan games,” she said. “I’ll continue fighting every step of the way to avoid a disastrous shutdown and push back against this extremist agenda.”
Wexton came into office after defeating Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., in 2018. The seat had been held for decades by Republicans, but typically by those who stood out within their caucus as advocates for public employees.
There is no cure for Wexton’s disease and the treatment options have so far not significantly improved her condition.
“I’m heartbroken to have to give up something I have loved after so many years of serving my community,” Wexton said. “But taking into consideration the prognosis for my health over the coming years, I have made the decision not to seek reelection once my term is complete and instead spend my valued time with Andrew, our boys, and my friends and loved ones.”
Wexton vowed to use her remaining time in Congress to continue fighting for the same issues that motivated her to run in the first place. Wexton's race in 2022 was among the most expensive in the country and she ultimately defeated Republican candidate Hung Cao 53%-47%.