Vern Buchanan takes Mike Johnson on tour of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport
SRQ Airport President Rick Piccolo, Speaker Mike Johnson, Rep. Vern Buchanan. Photo via Buchanan's office.

SRQ visit
The new Speaker used the occasion to push for the Senate to take up the House's FAA Reauthorization bill.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson toured the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport today alongside U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

After witnessing work done on the massive $100-million expansion of the Sarasota airport, the Louisiana Republican stressed the need for Congress to quickly finalize the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Amid holiday travel, Johnson said Washington remained aware of the needs of airports and carriers, noting the aviation sector makes up more than 5% of the U.S. gross domestic product and supports 11 million jobs.

“Our nation’s airports are also at the top of Congress’ mind this year,” Johnson said. “As it’s been mentioned, we’ve been working on the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation, and that is the primary federal law governing air travel and aviation policy for the whole country. The FAA bill only comes around for reauthorization every five years. So, this is a big thing for us.

In July, the House passed a reauthorization bill that awaits action in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Johnson said the bill streamlines bureaucracy to expedite capital investment projects. He also questioned Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s agency leadership, though he did not go into details.

Democratic critics, meanwhile, took the occasion of the airport tour to note the expansion relied upon financial support from a $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in 2021 when Democrats controlled the House. According to the FAA, the bill included $15 billion for airport infrastructure.

Johnson and Buchanan both voted against the legislation at the time.

The airport visit occurred before Buchanan was set to host Johnson’s first fundraiser since the Louisiana Republican’s ascension to Speaker.

Buchanan has promised the event will bring in at least seven figures.

That came when many Republican political consultants voiced concerns about Johnson’s fundraising prowess compared to his predecessor, ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Buchanan should be a helpful ally in addressing that issue, having personally raised $4.1 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee, more than any member of Congress not already serving in leadership. The Longboat Key Republican praised Johnson after the airport tour and said he was a servant leader supporters should enthusiastically support.

“Help other people be successful, and you will be successful,” Buchanan said. “That’s what he offers and what he’s going to bring to it every day. He will be a members’ leader.”

Buchanan stood alongside Rep. Adrian Smith, a Nebraska Republican who serves alongside Buchanan on the House Ways and Means Committee. Johnson noted that both will be key in directing “all economic traffic.”

Johnson praised Florida’s entire Republican House delegation.

“We’re cheering you along in Florida all around the country because this is a bellwether for what happens in the rest of the nation,” Johnson said. “It gives us hope when a state is well led, and you have great leaders like Congressman Vern Buchanan and others. You have a great delegation of Republican members of Congress from Florida, and they are leaders in every respect in the chamber.”

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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