Peter F. Welch (born May 2, 1947) is the U.S. Representative for Vermont's At-large congressional district, serving since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He previously served in the Vermont Senate where he was the Minority Leader and President pro tempore.
Early life, education and career
Welch was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1947. He attended local Catholic schools there (Holy Name Grammar School and Cathedral High School). magna cum laude in 1969. In 1973 he earned a law degree from Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California, Berkeley.
Welch attended College of the Holy Cross, graduating
He was a partner for 30 years in the personal injury law firm Welch, Graham & Manby, White River Junction, Vermont.
Welch is married to Margaret Cheney, a member of the Vermont House of Representatives. His first wife, Joan Smith, died of cancer in 2004. Welch had five stepchildren from his first marriage and now has three stepchildren in his second.
In 1980, Welch was elected to the Vermont Senate as a representative from Windsor County. In his second term, Welch was chosen as the Minority Leader, and after Democrats gained control of the Senate, Welch was chosen as President pro tempore.
In 1988, Welch left the Vermont Senate to make an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination for a seat in the U.S.
House of Representatives representing Vermont's at-large congressional district.
In 1990, Welch won the Democratic nomination for governor of Vermont, but lost in the general election to the former Vermont Governor Richard Snelling, the Republican nominee.
Welch did not run for another office for more than a decade, but in 2001 was appointed by then-Governor Howard Dean to fill a vacant Vermont Senate seat in Windsor County. He was elected to the seat in 2002 and reelected in 2004, again serving as president pro tempore.
U.S. House of Representatives
A September, 2007 search of the Library of Congress Thomas congressional bill search engine revealed Welch’s sponsorship of amendments on the following topics (among others):
- To improve and strengthen the safety inspection process of nuclear facilities with an amendment of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.
- To facilitate the development of markets for alternative fuels and Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel through research, development, and demonstration and data collection.
- To assist in the provision of affordable housing to low-income families affected by Hurricane Katrina.
- To authorize science scholarships for educating mathematics and science teachers, and for other purposes.
- To provide tax incentives for the production of renewable energy and energy conservation.
- To authorize Federal agencies and legislative branch offices to purchase greenhouse gas offsets and renewable energy credits, and for other purposes.
- To establish an Ombudsman in the Department of Defense to assist members of the Armed Forces seeking medical care at military medical treatment facilities.
- To carry out a pilot program to provide readjustment counseling and related mental health services to veterans through the use of mobile centers.
- To increase the number of benefits claims representatives employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- To ensure that members of the National Guard and Reserves are able to fully participate in the benefits delivery at discharge program administered.
- To provide resources to medical care managers and service member advocates.
- To set a 5-percent procurement goal for Federal contracting with "green" small businesses.
- To encourage schools to submit plans for implementation to the Secretary that include locally grown foods, in areas where geographically available.
- To establish a grant program for Colleges and Universities to invest in sustainable and efficient energy projects, up to $1 million for efficiency and $500,000 for sustainability.
9.29.08 - Welch votes against Wall Street bailout Washington, D.C. - Rep. Peter Welch issued the following statement in opposition to the Wall Street bailout.
Welch voted no on H.R. 3997, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008:
"The economic crisis we face is real. However, I voted against the bailout because it isn't paid for and because I don't believe it will work.
Welch later voted in favor of a new version of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act numbered H.R. 1424.
According to Ontheissues.org, Welch voted YES, as follows on key issues:
- Expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
- Criminalizing oil cartels like OPEC.
- Removing oil and gas exploration subsidies. (Jan 2007)
- Restricting employer interference in union organizing. (Mar 2007)
- Increasing minimum wage to $7.25. (Jan 2007)
- Requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D. (Jan 2007)
- Redeploying US troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days.
As of September 2007, Welch’s congressional website depicted his stand on issues and legislation, as follows:
- Developing a “pro-Vermont family farm 2007 farm bill and advocating for other federal policies that strengthen Vermont agriculture.”
- Ending the War in Iraq. Welch opposed the war before it began.
- Caring for veterans by including the support of their recovery from the effects of war in the military budget.
- Combating global warming and increasing energy independence.
- Providing universal health care and affordable prescription drugs to Americans.
One website that tracks congressional votes, Ontheissues.org, reported in September 2007 that Welch believes that an abortion decision should be between a woman and her doctor. His campaign website for 2006 claimed that he had a “100 percent National [Rifle] Association record.”
In his first term, Welch has attracted attention for his partnership with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) in challenging colleges and universities with enormous endowments to spend more of those funds for operating expenses (including, perhaps, lower tuition.)
One area where Welch has been at odds with vocal constituents is the matter of impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Welch has expressed the opinion that ending the war in Iraq is a top priority, and impeachment would distract the Congress from addressing that outcome. Advocates of impeachment have protested in Welch's Vermont offices.
On the Iraq War, the Vermont Guardian quoted Welch as saying, "If we’re going to end the war we’re going to have to move beyond the 218 votes (the number of Democrats, and two Republicans, who voted recently for a war funding bill that includes a withdrawal timetable). There is united Democratic opposition to the war and only two Republicans voted for accountability, no blank check, and a timetable. There are some folks who believe impeachment is a way to end the war, but my major reservation is that impeachment is one approach guaranteed to solidify Republican opposition."
On impeachment, the Vermont Guardian quoted Welch as saying, "My hat is off to the citizen activists in Vermont for bringing their case to the Legislature; they are representative of the proud tradition we have in Vermont to speaking out. .... People are expressing broad outrage about this president’s handling of the war, his treatment of civil liberties, and the use of bogus intelligence, and there is a lot of common ground here on holding the president and vice president accountable. The major question is the best way to make that happen.... My fundamental concern is ending this war."
Welch supports a Progressive Democratic position on most issues, as evidenced by his high ratings by Progressive interest groups and low ratings by conservative ones.
On the issue of abortion, Welch was given a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. However, the National Right to Life Committee gave him a rating of 0. Welch voted no on the November, 07, 2009 amendment to President Obama's health care bill that prohibited federally funded abortions. On the issue of gay rights, PFLAG and the Human Rights campaign rated Welch as 100% supportive of their position. Welch has sustained a liberal stance on the issues of abortion and gay rights despite his identification as a Roman Catholic.
Several organizations such as Americans for Fair Taxation and the National Taxpayers Union gave Welch 0 percent or F ratings. Though these organizations state they are nonpartisan, their pressure for a flatter tax rate has garnered them support from mostly Republican politicians. Welch also voted no on the 2009-2010 Defense Spending Appropriations bill.
Despite Welch’s Progressive positions on social issues and his low ratings from traditionally conservative interest groups, Welch has adopted a conservative position on gun rights. Welch supported a bill to allow loaded guns in National Parks as well as a bill to repeal part of the DC firearms ban. He received an A from the National Rifle Association, while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave him 0 percent.
Welch stresses the importance of veterans' support on his website and in his voting record. In July, 2009, Welch supported legislation to help disabled veterans. He also frequently introduces and supports legislation to help Vermont veterans, such as the April, 2009 resolution to honor Captain Richard Phillips, a navy captain from Underhill Vermont, who was kidnapped by Somali pirates but returned safely. Welch also received an "A" rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization.
In addition, on his website, Peter Welch states he believes in affordable access to quality health care as a fundamental right. Three key principles he strives for in health care are that everyone should be covered, everyone should contribute based upon their ability, and coverage should be independent of employers.
According to Representative Welch’s May 5th, 2010 entry on the Hill's Congress Blog, he believes in the importance in energy efficiency. Welch said he supports putting effort into creating energy efficiency and alternative energy sources,which will create more jobs for those in need and will also greatly reduce the cost of energy bills, among other things.
As of late, Welch has been pushing for Congress to pass legislation allowing Vermont to receive federal funding to repair highways and roads damaged by Tropical Storm Irene. He has joined a coalition of 50 Democratic and Republican House members from states affected by Irene in order to make his case in Congress. He has advocated for the Republicans and Democrats to work together on many of the key issues plaguing our country today.
When Vermont's lone U.S. House member Bernie Sanders decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2006, Welch chose to run for Sanders' seat. He defeated Republican Martha Rainville in the November 7, 2006 general election 53% to 45% in a race where both candidates pledged to be entirely positive. Welch is only the second Democrat to represent Vermont in the House since 1854.
He was reelected in 2008 with no major-party opposition.
2008 Presidential campaign
Welch endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination.
Welch won against Republican nominee Paul Beaudry, Liberty Union nominee Jane Newton, Working Families nominee Sheila Coniff, and Independent candidate Gus Jaccaci.
D Peter Welch* 64% 149,483
R Paul Beaudry 32% 73,982
February 21st, 2012