When the one hundred and fifteenth Congress convenes early next year, Republican Matt Gaetz will be a member of the freshman class in the House of Representatives.
The 34-year-old Gaetz, an attorney from Fort Walton Beach, collected 69.1 percent of the vote over Democratic nominee Steven Specht, to succeed First District Congressman Jeff Miller, who’s retiring after eight terms.
“For so long Republicans have been talking about repealing Obamacare, about tax reform, but we haven’t made much progress because there’s been so much gridlock, said Gaetz. “We have one-party government now in the United States of America, and so we better get to solving these problems.”
Gaetz is on board with President-elect Donald Trump’s call to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But repeal is one thing; what about the replacing Obamacare part?
“I don’t believe that Washington can repeal and replace Obamacare with any sort of ‘One size fits all’ healthcare system,” Gaetz said. “I’m going to be a voice to devolve a lot of the health care decisions back to the states. Then I believe best practices will emerge that can be replicated.”
Another issue to be tackled in the upcoming session is tax reform. Trump has proposed both a massive tax cut, and spending one trillion dollars to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Gaetz, who chaired the House Finance and Taxation Committee in Tallahassee, believes the two can co-exist.
“Our approach was that we didn’t need more taxes and higher taxes to be able to create more revenue; we needed more taxpayers,” said Gaetz. “And when you create a fair tax code, when you reduce tax rates across the board then the whole economy begins to grow.”
While the GOP will now control the executive branch to go along with the legislative branch, some Democrats were also elected to first terms – including former Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Gaetz says he’ll draw upon his time in the Legislature to reach across the aisle.
“When Democrats brought good ideas that improved quality of life for people [and] to make the government work better, I always tried to be open-minded,” Gaetz said. “Many of the challenges that we face as a country don’t have a particular partisan leaning to them. It’s just about how to make things work the right way.”
It’s been said that freshmen congressmen are like children – they should be seen and not heard. Gaetz isn’t buying into that. One area in which the fight will be engaged, he says, is protecting northwest Florida’s military mission.
“We’ve got remarkable military installations and assets throughout northwest Florida,” said Gaetz. “There are people all over America who would like to have some of that mission. And so we’ve got to defend it with a whip and a chair.”
To that end, Gaetz also wants to succeed Jeff Miller as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Miller, who’s also the outgoing chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is said to be under consideration by the Trump administration as a possible candidate for VA Secretary.