Coronavirus Florida: Brian Mast drives to DC, in bid to force US House to convene

Mike Diamond Special to the Post
Walton Sun

Congressman Brian Mast, R-Stuart, and seven other GOP colleagues tried Tuesday to turn a brief meeting of the U.S. House of Representatives into a pandemic protest — but they were quickly gaveled out of order.

Mast said their goal was to argue that Congress should be debating legislation to extend the exhausted Payroll Protection Program that offers funds to small business owners suffering hardship because of the coronavirus economic shutdown. But Democrats, who are in control, refused to recognize them.

“We were there to show that we were ready to conduct the business of the House,” he said. “It is embarrassing that Speaker Pelosi has not called us into session to debate the PPP.”

Mast noted that it will take at least two days for House members to come to Washington.

“We should all be here to act as soon as the Senate does,” he said. “We cannot afford to let this go on for another day.”

Mast said he expected Democrats would not let him and others speak at the pro-forma session, which often lasts for a few minutes. Votes are not taken at such proceedings.

The exhausted PPP recently distributed $350 billion in relief funds to small businesses. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over how to earmark extra dollars to the program. On Tuesday, the stalemate seemed to have been broken with an agreement to add another $450 billion to the program.

Mast drove to Washington. He left Sunday, stayed overnight in Georgia and arrived in the capital on Monday. Asked about the risks of traveling in the midst of a pandemic, Mast said it is his responsibility as a congressman to come to Washington to vote on matters of crucial importance.

“We all belong here,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to consider legislation that will be acceptable to Democrats.

“She wants to do all this without talking to anyone,” Mast said. “It is like she is saying, ’Everyone else just stay home and we will take care of it.’”

That is not right, he said, noting that all of Congress needs to be part of the process.

“By not being here, it amounts to a dereliction of duty,” Mast said.

Mast tweeted last week that Pelosi needed to show some “American grit like our first responders, nurses and doctors.”