U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart has been traveling the country working to ensure Republicans secure a majority in the House. But he’s also speaking with steering committee members about a critical leadership race that could boost Florida’s prestige in a GOP-controlled chamber.
The Hialeah Republican wants Buchanan, the Longboat Key conservative in line to be the senior-most House Ways & Means Republican, to Chair Congress’ most powerful committee.
“Vern has the upper hand in a big way,” Díaz-Balart, dean of the Florida delegation, told Florida Politics. “He’s been working his tail off for years.”
But there’s been speculation whether Buchanan has the race in the bag to snag a gavel. POLITICO earlier this month reported both Republicans Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Jason Smith of Missouri have made the contest competitive.
Díaz-Balart took a campaign trip with Buchanan through California and much of the Pacific Coast to fundraise for incumbents and challengers in close House races. That journey alone shows Buchanan is playing a role in making sure Republicans gain a majority, giving them the power to name Chairs of committees in the chamber in the next Congress.
“He’s been working his tail off for years,” Díaz-Balart said. “You may recall, Vern’s first election; he had a tough election. Yet even then, he was helping his colleagues to raise money.”
Indeed, Buchanan won his first election to the House in 2006 by just 369 votes over Democrat Christine Jennings. That earned Democrats’ attention for some time, but he’s gone on to win re-election seven times, more often than not against opponents who raised six figures.
In 2012, Buchanan faced Keith Fitzgerald, a former state lawmaker who had the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But the same election cycle, Buchanan served as Finance Chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and raised $155 million in that role.
This year, with more riding than ever for Buchanan — if Republicans retake the House — he has held fundraisers for the NRCC at his home in Longboat Key, a property he owns in Michigan, and locations during the recent Pacific trip with Díaz-Balart. He’s raised $3.1 million for the NRCC this cycle, more than any member of Congress outside sitting leadership.
“But he’s been doing that now and forever,” Díaz-Balart said. “He has really been a team player and a leader among his colleagues.”
He’s also served either as a Chair or ranking member for all but one Ways & Means Subcommittee and held a spot on the panel longer than any Republican except ranking member Kevin Brady of Texas, who isn’t seeking re-election to another term.
Brady has worked closely with Buchanan on fiscal issues, including legislation the Longboat Key Republican filed that would make tax cuts passed under President Donald Trump permanent instead of allowing them to expire in 2026. The bill recently earned notice and a favorable analysis from Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.
All this hints that leadership appears to be grooming Buchanan for the leadership role. And Bloomberg Tax recently reported he was the “front-runner” as described even by his rivals. Ultimately, the GOP House Steering Committee will vote on who wields the most power in the caucus.
Díaz-Balart said Florida members should certainly see an opportunity to gain influence for the state. The Sunshine State is still the second-largest majority Republican delegation, behind only Texas. “And we might be picking up four additional seats for Republicans after this election,” Díaz-Balart said.
Yet, no full Congress committees fall under a Florida lawmaker’s jurisdiction right now. That should change if the GOP regains power. “Florida is unified,” Díaz-Balart said. “This is hugely important to us. We have a big job to do.”
It’s Buchanan’s business background that Díaz-Balart said should be the determining factor. Whoever takes the gavel as Ways & Means Chair will also be the face of fiscal policies for the new Republican majority in Congress.
Buchanan, whose blue-collar upbringing has been a theme of his re-election campaign this year, grew up around factory workers but became a CEO creating jobs at car dealerships across the country. That’s all before being elected to Congress and focusing primarily on economic matters, including helping to craft the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement as a congressional liaison to the Trump White House.
“Most of us in Congress, we know about the economy because we’ve studied, read and dealt with its practitioners,” Díaz-Balart said. “But Vern Buchanan, he is the ultimate practitioner on how the economy works. He came from extreme humble beginnings and is truly self-made. He has been an employee and an employer for small and large businesses.
“He understands how the economy works, not by learning about it from others, but from being involved in it directly in every way possible. If you have a conversation about what are the obstacles that create problems for economic growth, what works, he talks not in theory but as someone who has lived it and continues to live it in every way. That gives us as Republicans such an advantage to do the things that have to happen for all Americans. In Congress, nobody has the experience Vern has, not theoretically but from doing it all bottom to top.”