Mast’s priorities unchanged amid D.C. power shift

Congressman Brian Mast handily won reelection in November, but life for the Republican representing St. Lucie County will be much different in his second term with Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives.

One thing Mast aims to keep the same, however, is continuing to serve on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

“That’s where we do our work on Lake Okeechobee,” Mast said.

That, of course, directly affects the future of the infamous discharges into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, which likely play a role in repeated algae blooms. Mast campaigned heavily on water issues in 2016 and 2018.

At press time, the 116th Congress had just started its session. Committee assignments will likely be settled by mid-January. Mast is confident he’ll get to stay on the infrastructure standing committee, but “I give it to you with a small grain of salt,” Mast said. “Anything can happen before the list comes out.”

During the 115th Congress, Mast was on three standing committees. In addition to infrastructure, he was on the House committees on Foreign Affairs and Veterans Affairs. The representative served in the Army for 12 years. He lost his legs to an IED while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan in 2010.

He received the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, the Purple Heart, and other notable medals. He has a degree from Harvard, where he studied economics, government and environmental sciences.

Mast said he’ll almost certainly have to give up either foreign affairs or veterans affairs, or both. He’s requesting assignment to the House Committee on Armed Services, which would touch on both foreign relations and veterans issues. But being in the minority now thins Mast’s opportunities.

The House of Representatives has 20 standing committees. Members go through a process to get assignments. Democrats and Republicans have committees to consider members’ assignment requests. Those committees match assignment requests to committee openings until they’ve filled their quotas. Then those slates go to what’s almost always a perfunctory floor approval.

The ending 115th Congress had 236 Republicans, 196 Democrats and three vacancies. The new Congress has about evenly flipped. It has 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans and one disputed seat that can conceivably go to either party. The new Congress has more than 100 freshmen, which is to Mast’s benefit for getting committee assignments since he’s in his second term.

The transportation and infrastructure committee had 60 members last Congress – 33 were Republicans. Party leaders will decide how many Republican and Democratic seats it will have in the 116th Congress.

In addition to committee assignments, there are subcommittee assignments representatives vie for. Mast has been a member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Water Resources & Environment, Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation and Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management subcommittees. He aims to stay on the first two subcommittees at least to have the greatest influence on South Florida water issues.

Additionally, Mast is a member of the House Everglades Caucus, along with the Bipartisan Climate Solutions, Congressional Estuary and Congressional Coast Guard caucuses. Caucus membership is at a member’s discretion.

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