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Ways and Means: Vern vs. the Smiths

Nov 10, 2022
Photos of Representatives Vern Buchanan, Jason Smith and Adrian Smith

Reps. Vern Buchanan, Jason Smith and Adrian Smith. Photos: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Vern Buchanan seemed to be the heir apparent for the Ways and Means chair in a Republican House — until Rep. Jason Smith jumped into the race.

Why it matters: Now the race is a toss-up between the two. And don't forget Rep. Adrian Smith as a third contender — although he's definitely bringing up the rear.

Our thought bubble: No matter who wins the chairmanship, the Ways and Means agenda under any of the three likely won’t vary significantly from each other.

What we're hearing: Buchanan is the most senior Republican on the committee after Rep. Kevin Brady, a prolific fundraiser and the first out of the gate to announce for the chairmanship.

  • All of that seemed to make him the clear front-runner initially, according to Hill GOP aides and Republicans close to the committee.
  • But Jason Smith, the younger, self-described firebrand lawmaker, has been building and strengthening his relationships with members, including on the Republican Steering Committee, these insiders say, while Buchanan hasn’t done similar outreach.
  • They also say Buchanan was trying to project an air of inevitability around himself winning the chairmanship, but members wanted to see a real race and didn’t like the assumption of victory.
  • “It seems like Vern Buchanan assumes if he writes a big check and calls a few people, it’ll all be fine,” a former House Republican chief of staff told Axios.
  • “But, Jason is going around and asking, “What’s your favorite food?” He’s doing all the stuff you do to woo people.”

Behind the scenes: We're hearing it may come down to a second ballot if no one wins the majority in the first set of votes.

  • Our sources tell us that while some members might have committed to Buchanan out of the gate when he first announced he was running, they may not feel obliged to stick to that vote if it goes to a second ballot.
  • Plus, new members joining the steering committee could also shake up the results.

Read our profiles of Vern Buchanan, Jason Smith and Adrian Smith and what they'd do.

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