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Congressional Corner

Congressional Corner With Peter Welch

Congressman Peter Welch

Vermont’s Congressional delegation doesn’t lack for seniority.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Representative Peter Welch wraps up his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This conversation was recorded on July 28th.

Alan Chartock: Congressman Peter Welch is the only congressman from Vermont and we got him right here today. He has two senators. They're kind of commonplace. Now, you know, you have two senators and one congressman. And they got to listen to him because he carries the water in the Congress of the United States. And I know you're gonna say something nice about them. So get it over with.

Rep. Peter Welch: Well, they're great. You know, Bernie and Patrick, I've been working with them for years, and we've got a really good working relationship, and it's part of what's special here in Vermont. So we're a team and it's a great team, and I'm proud to work with them.

You ever sit down and have lunch with them?

I do. Yeah. And two things. One, we see each other oftentimes at events. We see each other on the plane. But on occasions, we've had meals and but that's actually harder. We see each other and it's more random, just what our schedules cross, but we get really good quality time. And of course, we also spend some time on planes. And I've been on a couple of congressional trips with Senator Leahy.

So when you eat with them what do they eat? All America wants to know.

They eat healthy. You know, Marcelle, Patrick's wife is a nurse and she keeps an eye on make sure that he eats right. And Bernie is really health conscious. He was on the he was on the presidential campaign for two presidential campaigns. You got to be careful what you eat. So they're both I would say pretty healthy eaters.

Is Bernie's heart attack stuff all over now? I mean, he had a heart attack. We all read about it. Has he recovered fully?

He sure looks it to me and he sure showed it on the campaign. I mean, once he got out of that Nevada hospital and he did a couple of weeks, I think at home in Burlington taking walks with Jane and then he's been back in full speed mode on the presidential campaign and post-presidential campaign. So he really, really looks good. You know, that's wonderful.

Speaking of which, you think Biden's gonna win?

Yes, I do. And I think for the wellbeing of our country is really absolutely essential to the wins. I mean, the thing about Trump that is clear, it’s not his policies, it’s that he literally is unfit to govern, and he's unfit to govern, because he doesn't believe in institutions. He doesn't believe in institutions. He thinks that his gut is a better way to make policy than actually have the benefit of knowledge, the benefit of study, the benefit of experience. So all the institutions that can serve meeting the needs of America, and where the focus of a president is normally to improve them, his goal is to essentially destroy them. That's number one. Number two, he doesn't believe in democracy and he really doesn't. And that's an extreme thing for me to say. But everything he's done demonstrates that look what he's done with the justice department where he's turned it into, essentially a political wing of his administration, where he attacks the rule of law, which is so essential. Whether you're Republican or Democrat, we're a nation of laws. And that has to be respected and the norm-busting approach of President Trump where on the narrow end dislike he stands up against political correctness and has some appeal, but on the extreme end, and what he does over and over again, is show total disrespect for the rule of law. And then the kind of racist comments that he makes, and the ban on Muslims coming in to our country on the basis of their religion, all these things have added up to a person who has made a decision that his political power and appeal is going to come from bashing institutions and dividing people, and we need a president, Republican or Democrat, who has as a major responsibility and accepts it unifying our country to meet our challenges.

Now, Peter Welch, I’m sure you get this question a lot, but and I'm sure you won't answer it, but I'll ask anyway. Who should Biden pick as his vice presidential running mate?

Well, I'm really of the view that an African American woman is a good choice for him. And of course, you know, I've got my favorites because they serve with some of the top list in the House and really liked them, you know, on a personal level and have a great deal of respect for them politically as well. And Val Demings, I served with her on the on the Intelligence Committee. Karen Bass has been a friend for years, and did a great job as leader of the Congressional Black Caucus on the Justice in Policing Bill. Michelle Lujan Grisham formerly of Congress, she sat next to me on the oversight committee and she is the governor of New Mexico. So I'm talking about the people I know and like, but there's other good folks out there, including Elizabeth Warren, who was tremendous in her campaign.

What’s your thinking on that? Is she too liberal for it? I mean, after all, Biden is a moderate, moderate, got a lot of moderate votes out there in the nominating process. Would Warren bring the ticket too far left?

No, I mean, a lot of what Warren advocated, Biden is embracing. I mean, you're seeing the influence of Bernie and Elizabeth Warren and the policy positions, they advocated being adopted in very significant ways by the Biden campaign. And I think what Warren has going for is her policy, commitment and clarity. In my experience with Warren, I spent time with her more when she was before she was in the Senate. And she was helping the speaker with the response to the collapse of Wall Street and the Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau. And she was in the Speaker's office with a number of us many times and I found her to be very concrete, very practical, and very knowledgeable, but quite specific, you know, not a pontificator, somebody who got down to the details and hey, let's get it done. No, I think very highly of her.

Could she takeover for Biden, if Biden, you know, for one of a better word fades?


Could she do the job? She could?


You know, personally, I have an interest in her winning because my very good friend Richie Neal put her up to see me at one point and she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

That's great. She'll do anything.

You’d realize I'll have some bragging rights. If she becomes the president or the Vice President, that's for sure.

Well, I'm sure she'll be bragging about that moment, too.

Don't you think? Me too. Okay, so how do we know that these elections can be secure? I mean, I get more mail about how Trump is gonna try to steal this election than anything else I'm getting. So how do we deal with that?

In the legislation we passed in the House, there is substantial funds for election security also for vote by mail. And President Trump is essentially making a claim that the elections are rigged without any evidence whatsoever. And I think that the fear I have is less about the local elections being contaminated because I think there's going to be a lot of scrutiny and it'll get done. I worry about the allegations by the president without any basis that they're rigged elections where he essentially stokes conspiracy theories because he knows he's losing. But the second thing I do worry about is that we're going to have a lot of mail in voting. And I believe we should do that, particularly with the COVID virus. But I think it may lead to delays in when we know what the results are, in that interim period between when people cast their vote in the mail and votes get counted, that's going to be a mischief making time for the president who's going to claim without any evidence whatsoever, that bad stuff is happening, even when what's happening is people will be counting the votes. So I worry about that's a worry I have and I don't have a solution to that because I think we really do need secure mail-in voting. That all the studies show that that doesn't favor the Republicans or Democrats. But it does is favor public health and security. But I know that'll be exploited by the president to make bogus claims about his disappointment when he gets clobbered.

I believe you're right on all those counts, but I do believe he's gonna get clobbered, although there are those people who won't believe that. Anyway, it is terrific to talk to Congressman Peter Welch, the only congressman from all of Vermont. And Peter, you've always been a hero to me and I so enjoyed our conversation. So thank you for coming. Appreciate it.

Thank you.