About half of all senior congressional staffers are mulling an exit: The 'physical and psychological toll of this place cannot be understated.'

US Capitol Building
Capitol Hill has become a contentious workplace, especially in the past year.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • Congressional dysfunction is not just an issue confined to lawmakers.

  • The Congressional Management Foundation said many senior aides are also eyeing the exits.

  • One GOP aide cited a "my way or the highway" attitude as a problem in Congress.

The wave of lawmakers on Capitol Hill calling it quits in recent months — many of them citing entrenched acrimony — has been difficult to ignore as Republicans barely hold on to a razor-thin House majority.

But the gridlock and partisanship that has become commonplace among lawmakers has also taken a toll on senior congressional staffers.

Nearly half of upper-level aides are now eyeing the exits, a survey by the nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation, which seeks to strengthen trust in Congress, shows.

The report says that 44% of Republican staffers and 51% of Democratic staffers are considering leaving Capitol Hill due to "heated rhetoric from the other party."

The Congressional Management Foundation sent invitations via email to over 2,700 senior staffers in the House and Senate between August and November 2023, and 138 staffers chose to participate in the survey.

Among senior staffers surveyed who said they have "somewhat frequently" thought about their departures and believe their own party's rhetoric was the culprit, 59% were Republican and 16% were Democratic.

"The 'my way or the highway' attitude that certain members of both parties have — and in certain cases combined with an apparent opinion that they alone are fighting for the 'best' version of the United States of America — is not beneficial to our constitutional republic," a Republican House legislative director told the Foundation.

"Dictating is not governing and governing requires compromise, which seems to be more difficult to obtain with recent classes of Representatives," the legislative director added.

In the report, Democratic staffers had a much higher level of anxiety than Republican staffers regarding their safety and that of their congressional colleagues (73% versus 47%) — a possible byproduct of harsher political discourse and the January 6, 2023, Capitol riot.

While Republican lawmakers have largely sought to move on from the events of January 6, Democratic legislators have continued to needle the GOP over the issue and are using the defense of democracy as a key talking point in elections across the country this year.

"The physical and psychological toll of this place cannot be understated," a Democratic House staff director told the Foundation. "We are in danger as a nation."

Since the start of the 118th Congress in January 2023, several lawmakers have left the House, including former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, former GOP Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Bill Johnson of Ohio, and former Democratic Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Brian Higgins of New York.

GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, the chair of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, is set to leave Congress next month.

Just days before Buck left the House, he criticized the state of the body, arguing that it "keeps going downhill."

More than 40 House members have so far opted out of running for reelection this November. Some of them are angling for higher offices, while others are retiring.

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