It’s been eight years since Vern Buchanan’s Republican party didn’t hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but that won’t stop him from reaching across the aisle in his seventh term as congressman.
After cruising past a tough challenger in David Shapiro on Tuesday, Buchanan will return to a House where Democratcs will hold the majority. It will be reminiscent of his early days in Congress. When he was first elected in 2006, Democrats held the House until 2010.
Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, said the difference after all these years is that he’s had plenty of time to build relationships with lawmakers across the political spectrum.
“It’s a little different. it does take time as a freshman to build relationships and get on the right committees,” Buchanan said Wednesday. “It takes about two to four years to figure out where the opportunities are, but I’ve got a lot of friendships I’ve built with Democrats over the years. I always remind my Democrat friends, we’re all Americans and that’s what we have to remember if we want to get things done.”
The 67-year-old congressman attributed his willingness to work with Democrats as the reason why so many of his proposals have been signed into law. President Donald Trump recently signed his 16th bill, an opioid bill that centralizes relevant information into an accessible resource guide.
Some of the other pressing issues in Florida’s 16th Congressional District are sure to win support from Democrats, said Buchanan, who will remain a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and a co-chair of the bipartisan Florida congressional delegation.
“We look for things we can do together. There’s things we can set the (Republican) agenda on, but I’m looking for things we can get agreement on that we both feel passionate about. Florida’s water quality isn’t Republican or Democrat. It’s the same with offshore drilling, which is something we all agree on.”
In an Election Day victory speech, Nancy Pelosi, leader of House Democrats, looked forward to tackling pressing issues for Democrats, such as infrastructure and bringing transparency to dark money spending. Those are issues Buchanan can get behind.
“There’s a lot on their agenda that, if it makes sense, I’m going to support it,” Buchanan said. “I’ll work with anyone with a good idea, especially if it’s a good idea for our district.”
Buchanan’s constituency stretches from southern Hillsborough County to northern Sarasota County. The heart of the district is Manatee County, which made the difference on Election Day by giving Buchanan 58.46 percent of the vote against Shapiro.
The 12-year congressman said Manatee’s support is a natural result of the projects he’s been able to get done for the community, including beach re-nourishment on Anna Maria Island and dredging Ware’s Creek. In his next term, Buchanan hopes to flex his bipartisan muscle to keep providing for the area.
“The way I see it, we picked up a few more in the Senate, but we still don’t have 60 votes. I didn’t go up there to file a bill and have it go nowhere,” he said. “You’ve got to have Democrats on the bill to get anything done.”