Buchanan Named Chairman of Ways and Means Subcommittee
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, has been named chairman of a key House Ways and Means subcommittee that will put him at the center of debate over efforts to reform the nation’s welfare system.
Buchanan will lead the Human Resources Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over federal assistance for families, children, the disabled, and the unemployed. The chairmanship opening was created when Rep. Paul Ryan left the committee to become House Speaker, thereby altering the committee’s seniority structure.
“As the new chairman, I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to make sure our nation’s welfare laws and safety net truly help those in need without trapping them in a cycle of poverty,” Buchanan said, noting that Speaker Ryan has made welfare reform one of his top priorities in Congress.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in 2014 the federal government spent $129 billion on programs overseen by Buchanan’s subcommittee to help needy families, children, and the disabled. These programs will account for $1.4 trillion in spending over the next decade.
The last major reform of these programs occurred in 1996 – an effort led by the Human Resources Subcommittee. That reform fundamentally improved the federal welfare system, changing programs from entitlements that kept people stuck in poverty to a system that helps those in need get back on their feet and back to work. One of its most important changes was the creation of the Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides funds to needy working families and those who are looking for work. Four million Americans, including nearly 86,000 people in Florida, received TANF benefits in 2014.
The subcommittee has been at the forefront of a number of other issues important to Florida. Its jurisdiction over the Supplemental Security Income program will allow Buchanan to ensure that this vital lifeline continues to benefit 561,000 aged, blind and disabled Floridians (including 185,000 seniors). And Buchanan will be charged with preserving and promoting families in exercising the subcommittee’s authority over foster care and adoption.
Buchanan has served on the House Ways and Means Committee since January of 2011. His appointment as subcommittee chairman marks the first time a Floridian has led a Ways & Means Subcommittee since U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw chaired the Trade Subcommittee for the 109th Congress (2005-2006).
Buchanan is Florida’s only member on Ways and Means, widely considered the most powerful committee in Congress because of its broad jurisdiction, including taxes, Social Security, Medicare, welfare programs and international trade.