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Where the Drinkers Are in Congress

Just how many drinks are staffers imbibing at work events? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Just how many drinks are staffers imbibing at work events? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The congressional drinking culture is alive and well, helped along by the demands of the job.  

According to a survey of congressional staff, nearly half, or 47 percent, of staffers attend social events for work either once or twice a week. Those events are predominantly serving alcoholic beverages. Perhaps that helped lead to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows the District of Columbia with a slightly higher percentage of adult binge drinkers (22 percent) as compared to the national average of 16 percent. The CDC classifies “binge drinking ” as occurring when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours. The CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System ranked D.C. in its “third tertile,” sharing a similar “dark red” ranking with North Dakota and ahead of only Nebraska at 22 percent and Wisconsin at 26 percent of binge drinkers.  

According to those staffers who responded to the survey, though, most are keeping it under three drinks, with 44 percent having just one drink, and 33 percent having two or three drinks. Twenty-two percent said they did not drink any alcohol at such events. Only two respondents admitted having more than four drinks at work events.  

These results are based on the answers of about 260 respondents between Nov. 16-20, 2015. Read CQ Roll Call’s full survey questions and find out more information here .  

The reception circuit buzzes year round, though spikes around the holidays. Events tend to be held on the weekdays when Congress is in session, hoping to attract members of Congress. While many people who spoke to Roll Call conjured positive images of bipartisan conviviality at receptions, most agreed that staffers kept to their drinking limits, with a handful of rare exceptions.  

The holiday parties staffers are most looking to attend, according to the survey data, include Google, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Southern Company and the White House. But not every staffer gets into the festive spirit.  

One particularly despondent respondent complained he or she wasn’t looking forward to any of the events, saying simply: “parties are work.”  

Duly noted.


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