Michael Waltz campaigns on Hill for Vern Buchanan’s Ways and Means bid
Mike Waltz goes to bat for Vern Buchanan on The Hill.

Waltz Buchanan
Florida relies on trade, and Republicans here helped win the House. Is it time for a powerful Chairmanship?

U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz sees high stakes for Florida in who controls the House Ways and Means Committee. The Sunshine State hosts 14 working ports and substantial international commerce, so trade relationships and policies impact the economy here in enormous ways.

“We have the longest coastline in the continental U.S.,” the St. Augustine Republican noted. “How dumping occurs, arbitration within commerce with international disputes, it’s incredibly technical. That’s why we need someone with years of expertise leading House Ways and Means.”

That’s why Waltz has pushed for the House GOP Steering Committee to name U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, as the next Chair of arguably the most powerful committee in Congress.

Buchanan appears to be in a strong position. He will be the senior-most Republican on the committee when a new Congress convenes in January, and he’s Chaired and been ranking member of five of the six standing Ways and Means subcommittees.

Right now, Buchanan is carrying a piece of priority legislation for likely incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy: a bill to make permanent the tax cuts passed under former President Donald Trump.

On trade specifically, Waltz noted Buchanan played a critical role in creating the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But there remains a competition with U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith, a Nebraska Republican, and Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican, in the mix.

Waltz said each of those members brings their own qualities to the race. But none boast Buchanan’s background, having grown up poor in Michigan but rising to found two successful companies. That was all before being elected to Congress.

“His business background is pretty well unparalleled by anyone running in this race,” Waltz argued.

As for the effort to rally enough steering committee votes behind Buchanan, Waltz has campaigned on the Hill and may even have a vote. Buchanan serves as a Florida representative on the steering committee, but cannot vote in a race in which he is running. Most likely, Waltz will vote in Buchanan’s stead in this race.

Florida notably also just secured a second steering committee seat held by U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Hialeah Republican and another vocal Buchanan supporter.

The growth in influence comes as Florida holds a larger share of the GOP caucus than ever. Florida will send 20 Republicans to the next Congress. That’s more members of the GOP caucus than any state but Texas. Yet the state still has no members guaranteed full committee Chair positions.

But arguably, the success in Florida is also the only reason Republicans will hold a majority in the next Congress at all. The GOP nationally needed to pick up five seats in November to control the House. Florida Republicans did more than their share, Waltz argued.

“We flipped four seats Republican this year. The voters have spoken,” Waltz said. “And we haven’t had a committee Chairman or Chairwoman since 2017 with Jeff Miller. Texas has hovered between four and six Chairs.”

Miller Chaired the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Waltz reminds that Florida overperformed in the 2022 Midterms, while House Republicans nationwide underperformed. He thinks that’s because of a brand of Florida conservatism under Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature that has set forth a path voters approve of in the state. That’s a model that should be emulated in Washington, Waltz argued.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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