Here’s an underreported story that might give conservatives some hope that the Republican Party’s DC leadership is beginning to adopt the more aggressive posture long demanded by conservatives.
In the aftermath of the prolonged campaign for Speaker of the House that brought California Rep. Kevin McCarthy the Speaker’s gavel after an increasingly acrimonious 15 ballots, the House Republican Steering Committee met to elect committee chairmen and dole out other appointments.
Vying for Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee were Representatives Vern Buchanan (FL-16), Adrian Smith (NE-3) and Jason Smith (MO-8).
Mr. Buchanan had seniority and is a multimillionaire entrepreneur who pretty well personifies the old Chamber of Commerce-centric Republican establishment, and in former times he would have been a shoo-in to chair the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives.
As Florida Politics noted, 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.
But Buchanan’s bid for the powerful post may have foundered on the tone-deaf pitch he made to the Steering Committee.
According to reporting by Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics, those handling Buchanan’s campaign for the gavel say he stressed a desire to achieve policy wins in Congress, they also said the Congressman ran on a business background and on his ability to work across the aisle.
“Working across the aisle” is not-so-subtle code for caving-in to Democrats in the eyes of most conservatives and exactly what newly elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy had promised not to do if conservatives dropped their opposition to his candidacy.
Rep. Jason Smith pitched a more aggressive approach promising more investigations of President Joe Biden’s administration, including targeting the IRS expansion included in the $1.7 trillion Omnibus spending bill passed in the waning hours of the 117th Congress.
“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 a post-election 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 and Means Committee welcomes whistleblower efforts to uncover corrupt behavior at that agency.”
Mr. Buchanan, for his part, while speaking with decorum in a post-election statement, seemed to miss the changed circumstances of the House GOP Conference, “I want to congratulate Jason and wish him well," Buchanan said in a statement. "We have a big agenda to fulfill and I look forward to working with him and the committee on shared priorities. 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."
Vern Buchanan is a classic Republican “good guy” who in another age would have made a great Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. However, the notion that seniority should decide Chairmanships and states somehow “deserve” a Committee Chairman probably died when Speaker Kevin McCarthy concluded the Rules agreement with the 20 conservative holdouts and set the new GOP House majority on a decidedly conservative path that does not include “working across the aisle” instead of investigating IRS and Biden administration abuses.
Republican House leadership elections
Representative Vern Buchanan (FL-16)
Adrian Smith (NE-3)
Jason Smith (MO-8)
House Ways and Means Committee
House IRS investigations