Vern Buchanan loses Ways and Means Chair to Missouri’s Jason Smith

Florida will have no Chairmanships of full committees this year.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has lost the race for Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. The defeat to U.S. Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri came despite the Longboat Key Republican holding seniority among GOP members of the powerful House panel.

This means no member of the Florida congressional delegation will Chair a full committee in the 118th Congress.

“I want to congratulate Jason and wish him well. We have a big agenda to fulfill, and I look forward to working with him and the committee on shared priorities,” Buchanan said.

“This is a big loss for Florida, which hasn’t had a committee Chairman in five years despite being the fastest growing state with the second largest Republican delegation in the House. Florida deserves a seat at the leadership table. Our party needs to move forward and show the country that we’re ready to lead.”

Sources involved with Buchanan’s campaign said the Congressman ran on a business background and on his ability to work across the aisle. He notably serves now as co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, a bipartisan entity.

The House GOP Steering Committee selected Chairs in several races shortly after the November Midterm Elections, where Republicans flipped the House and secured a slim majority. But several contested Chair races were delayed as Speaker Kevin McCarthy whipped votes to lead the chamber. Ultimately, it took 15 ballots in the House before members elected a Speaker early Saturday morning.

Buchanan supported the California Republican for Speaker throughout the process. But so did his chief rivals for the Ways and Means gavel, including U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska.

The 33-member House Republican Steering Committee decides who chairs each panel or, when Republicans are in the minority, who serves as a ranking member.

Jason Smith was also running for a Chairmanship of the House Budget Committee. All remaining Chair decisions should be decided Monday.

Buchanan was the first of the three Ways and Means Chair candidates to present to the Steering Committee. In the first vote, no candidate received a majority. But afterward, Adrian Smith bowed out of the race, and a second vote was held. Jason Smith beat Buchanan in that round.

Those handling Buchanan’s campaign for the gavel say he stressed a desire to achieve policy wins in Congress, but that the Steering Committee appeared to buy into Jason Smith’s more aggressive approach promising more investigations of President Joe Biden’s administration.

Some of that was apparent in a lengthy statement released by the new Ways and Means Chair immediately after his selection.

“Our first step is defunding the $80 billion pay increase Democrats gave the IRS to hire 87,000 new agents to target working families,” Jason Smith said in the statement. “But we are not stopping there. If confirmed, the new IRS Commissioner should plan to spend a lot of time before our committee answering questions about the leaking of sensitive taxpayer information and an agency with a history of targeting conservative Americans. We will make it clear to every IRS employee that the Ways & Means Committee welcomes whistleblower efforts to uncover corrupt behavior at that agency.”

The blow comes after Buchanan had effectively sought the post since April 2021. That’s when U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican and former Ways and Means Chair and Ranking Member, announced he would not seek re-election.

Buchanan announced at once he would seek the Chair post in the 118th Congress. At that point, the Florida Congressman appeared to be the heavy underdog, with U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a more senior Committee member, also in the running. Adrian Smith also declared his intent to run for the job then.

But in December, Nunes announced he would retire from Congress to run former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social platform. That left Buchanan the senior-most Republican on the House panel at the start of the new Congress.

Buchanan saw many developments that those close to the race believed would materially help his candidacy. Florida Republicans enjoyed success in the November Midterms amid national underperformance by the GOP. As a result, Republicans picked up four Florida seats alone, all of whom Buchanan helped through personal fundraising efforts.

Buchanan’s fundraising efforts were bountiful nationwide. He personally raised around $4.1 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee, more than any member of Congress not already serving in leadership, including Jason Smith.

With Florida growing its state House delegation to 20 Republican Representatives, a second Florida seat was reserved on the 33-member Steering Committee, which went to U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Buchanan ally. The drama around the Speaker race also resulted in McCarthy tapping U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, for a spot on the committee.

For what it’s worth, Buchanan, for years, has also held a spot on the Committee, but he could not take part in deliberations on the Ways and Means gavel. Instead, U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Beach Republican, filled in for Buchanan and presumably advocated in the room for his fellow Floridian.

Buchanan will return to the Steering Committee to make remaining Chair decisions throughout the day, including who will Chair the House Budget Committee.

Buchanan pitched the Steering Committee on his extensive business ground. The former car dealership mogul is one of the wealthiest members of the House and has made the needs of small business owners and spurring entrepreneurship cornerstones of his agenda in Congress. A video produced by political consultant Max Buchanan for the Steering Committee presentation, which can be viewed below, highlighted Buchanan’s business background creating jobs in 44 states.

First elected in 2006, Buchanan has served as Chair or ranking member on five of the six subcommittees under the Ways and Means umbrella, more than any other member.

He also played a critical role in developing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, the treaty negotiated under President Donald Trump for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Buchanan served as the House liaison to the House when that deal was crafted.

The panel holds oversight on all tax and trade issues, where tensions between the GOP House and the Democratic Senate and White House could play out over the next two years. Buchanan notably filed legislation last Congress that could potentially make permanent Trump-era tax cuts set to expire in 2025.

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].

One comment

  • PeterH

    January 10, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    Good. Since absolutely no Florida Congressional members will hold a committee Chair position…. Maybe they can write strict border legislation. Congress creates laws for the executive branch to enforce.

    Why is it that DeSantis never addressed immigration reform when he was in Washington?

    Whine on DeSantis…..

    Republicans are America’s biggest problem!
    Vote all Republicans out of office.

Comments are closed.


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