The incoming Florida GOP congressman and former Army explosive ordnance disposal NCO, who gave both his legs serving in Afghanistan, told Breitbart News on Tuesday he plans to vote against any attempt inside the House Republican Conference to bring back earmarks.
The use of earmarks was banned in the GOP’s conservatives in a 2011 reform of the budget process, because earmarks — or directed funding for projects in legislators’ districts — can be used by leaders and lobbyists to push unpopular legislation and spending bills through Congress.
“I know there are some people who want to push towards earmarks, but if you are a person that considers it the people’s money–and that we should be more responsible with the people’s money, I think you can see that earmarks are going in the right direction,” said Congressman-elect Brian Mast, who was elected Nov. 8 to represent the Sunshine State’s 18th congressional district.
“You can mark me down as a ‘No’ vote for earmarks,” he said.
Mast spoke to Breitbart News after a luncheon for incoming freshmen at the Cannon House Office Building. The medically-retired staff sergeant said he has been attending orientations and meeting with his predecessor Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy, who gave up his seat when he launched his unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
When he takes office in January, Mast said his top priority is a seat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and fixing the problems that have plagued how the federal government takes care of its veterans.
“Reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs-big time–finding a better pathway for my peers, probably the biggest national issue that affects me and my life, my peers, and people I’ve known throughout my life,” he said.
There is also work to be done with the Army Corps of Engineers and their management of Lake Okeechobee, which was a major issue in the campaign, he said. The Army Corps of Engineers has created a controversy as it released fresh water from the lake into the salt marshes along the coast, which triggered a massive algae bloom and other environmental disruptions.
Mast said since he won the election, he had not had time to contemplate what it meant to become a Member of Congress.
“From the moment I was up after the election, the next morning, it was non-stop,” he said.
“Last night–the Speaker’s dinner–we had a tour, we had the Speaker’s dinner, you know? Being under the dome, the lights of the city, being with the other representatives was probably the first moment where I got to sit there and take a deep breath and say: ‘Wow, this is it.'” he said.
“That’s when it really sank in for me,” the combat veteran said.
Throughout all the activities arranged for new members, Mast said he was struck by the jovial patriotism of his peers.
“It’s not what you always see in the media–people at each other’s throats,” he said. It’s people getting to know each other, getting to know each other’s families, each other’s spouses, where each other are from–and trying to found common ground instead of where you can find division.”