© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Senator Peter Welch discusses federal issues including the Supreme Court, infrastructure and broadband funding

 Vermont Senator Peter Welch speaks at a Solar-for-All event in Waterbury on June 28, 2023
Pat Bradley
Vermont Senator Peter Welch speaks at a Solar-for-All event in Waterbury on June 28, 2023

Vermont Senator Peter Welch is in his first term, having previously served in the House.

During a stop in Waterbury, Vermont Wednesday the Democrat told WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley that a lot of work is getting done in the Senate, in contrast with his former chamber.

Actually I’ve been very pleased. We don’t have the distractions in the Senate that you’re seeing in the House. You know, calling for impeachment and these bogus investigations. One thing that is going very quickly is the confirmation of judges and that’s critical. We’ve got to get that bench balanced and we have an opportunity to move those through and we are. Second there is a lot of push back on the effort of Republican senators to roll back some of these environmental steps we’ve taken. So that’s a blocking activity but it’s quite important to maintain the gains that we have had. And third, you’ve got an immense amount of work in the committees on things like social media and how do we protect our children and the mental health crisis, about how we implement a permitting reform that could be facilitating the buildout of clean energy, of addressing the really serious issue in the Supreme Court about its failure to have any ethical standards. So there’s a lot of work going on. And the other aspect of it is much of this work in the Senate is bipartisan. I’m very pleased with that. I just worked on an opioid bill with Senator Cruz that passed the Senate. So I think we’re making progress.

I know that Senator Schumer, who is the majority leader, has said he wants to get quite a few bills through and I believe he mentioned a rail bill among other things. What do you make of the agenda that Senator Schumer is putting forward?

Well I support it. And he’s also saying that in order for us to pass anything it has to be bipartisan. And of course we know that because it’s a 60 vote requirement and we’ve got a 51-49 balance in the Senate. But the rail bill is a result of that terrible accident in East Palestine. And we have to do the FAA, the Federal Aeronautics Association, reauthorization. And what Senator Schumer is saying there’s work to be done and is also, to my delight, saying to us on the Democratic side find a Republican partner.

We also have transportation issues. We saw the bridge collapse after a truck ran into it and the fuel basically ignited. That shows, really illustrates, how our transportation system, our road system needs work. I know you’ve talked about that in the past. Any progress in that area?

Well of course we passed the infrastructure bill and there’s billions of dollars that are coming back to our states to help roads and bridges, water, sewer. There’s an implementation issue. And it is both getting the workers and dealing with inflation, which is a factor, but it also takes time to build things. But, by the way, that bridge was really a one-off event. That was a, it couldn’t have, you had a tanker truck with fuel that blew up underneath the bridge and it literally on fire melted that bridge over I-95. So I don’t want people to think that those interstate bridges are dangerous.

We heard some broadband funding announced this week by the federal government to go to all states. One of the town officials that I had talked to this week in the wake of that said it’s really nice to have the funding announced, we really need to have it implemented and put in place. I know you’ve been talking with some of the broadband folks here this week. What are you hearing about the funding versus implementation?

Well, that local official is right. You know it’s tough enough in Washington to get the funding. That’s a big debate. But what’s even harder is the implementation. But I’m pretty proud of what Vermont’s done with these Community Union Districts where you’ve got local citizens working with really private enterprise using these funds to build a practical and affordable buildout plan in their communities. So I think it’s being done. But if you don’t have internet today then tomorrow’s too late. You want it right now. But this is, we’ve got the funds now we’ve got to get the wire to that last barn on the longest dirt road in every one of our communities.

What’s your key focus as soon as you get back down to D.C.?

Well we’re going to be having hearings on the Supreme Court and that obviously is showing great urgency with what’s come out about the lavish gifts that have gone to a couple of the justices. And it’s really astonishing to me that 850 federal judges all adhere to a strict ethics code. They’re transparent if they get a gift. There’s nine that don’t and those are the Supreme Court justices. It’s pretty shocking and it’s got to change. My hope is that the Chief Justice would take the responsibility to get his colleagues to adopt a code. If the Chief Justice won’t do that, then I think Congress should act.

Senator Peter Welch was attending an event with EPA Administrator Michael Regan announcing the launch of a program to fund a solar energy initiative.

Related Content