Serving as one of only two Black Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives brings its own set of unique challenges, but, as an interview with the Washington Examiner reveals, Florida GOP Rep. Byron Donalds is clearly up to the task, even going so far as to thwart Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) push for all members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
In an discussion with the outlet published Monday, Donalds, 42, discussed the experiences of a newly-minted congressman in D.C., using Pelosi’s vaccine and mask edicts as an illustration of the sorts of disagreements that plague the chamber.
Donalds himself contracted the virus back in October, and he has declined the vaccine thus far, despite Pelosi’s declaration that until all members are vaccinated, masks will continue to be mandatory on the House floor and in certain other areas of the Captiol complex.
“Why do I need to go vaccinate myself from a virus I’ve already gone through?” Donalds asked, continuing, “If I decide to get a vaccine, it’s not going to be because of what Nancy Pelosi said. That’s a personal decision I think everybody needs to make.”
Underscoring the difficulties of being a freshman member of the House, not to mention a Republican in the current congressional climate, Donalds explained, “Let’s just be real…it’s tough…to accomplish much of anything,” adding that Pelosi “runs the place with an iron fist, so from a legislative standpoint, it’s difficult to say, ‘I’m going to pass this bill and that bill.’”
The congressman won election in Florida’s 19th District in 2020, and in the Examiner interview, articulated the differences he sees between his experiences in the Florida legislature and the way things are handled in D.C., saying:
The thing that’s surprising to me is how much time we waste up here. In Florida’s legislature, not only do we have really only 60 days in the legislative session, but we’re also term-limited. You know that your ‘political life,’ quote unquote, is coming to an end.
Donalds also offered insight into what it is like to be one of very few Black conservatives in Congress, saying, “It’s a responsibility, but yeah, it’s a burden” to always be asked to comment on issues that touch on race in one way or another.
Suggesting that he while would much rather discuss tax policy, foreign affairs, the economy, or immigration, Donalds acknowledged the unique position in which he finds himself, saying, “I get it. I’m one of the two Black guys in the House. So when these questions come, of course reporters come to me or they come to [Rep] Burgess [Owens] or the go to Sen. [Tim] Scott.”
The congressman emphasized that “minority or people of color or however you want to phrase it sometimes don’t feel there’s home for them in our party. And I always felt like it was my responsibility, in part, to change that narrative.” With committed lawmakers like Donalds in the mix, the chances of that happening appear stronger than ever, and that is something all conservatives can celebrate.