Peter Welch

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Peter Welch
Peter Welch official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's at-large district
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Preceded byBernie Sanders
73rd and 78th President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate
In office
January 8, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byPeter Shumlin
Succeeded byPeter Shumlin
In office
January 9, 1985 – January 4, 1989
Preceded byRobert A. Bloomer
Succeeded byDoug Racine
Democratic Leader of the Vermont Senate
In office
January 5, 1983 – January 8, 1985
Preceded byRobert Daniels
Succeeded byKermit Smith
Member of the Vermont Senate
from the Windsor district
In office
December 13, 2001 – January 3, 2007
Serving with John Campbell, Richard McCormack
Preceded byCheryl Rivers
Succeeded byAlice Nitka
In office
January 7, 1981 – January 4, 1989
Serving with Chester Scott, John Howland, Edgar May, William Hunter
Preceded byHerbert Ogden
Succeeded byRichard McCormack
Personal details
Peter Francis Welch

(1947-05-02) May 2, 1947 (age 73)
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Joan Smith
(m. 1986; died 2004)
Margaret Cheney
(m. 2009)
EducationCollege of the Holy Cross (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Peter Francis Welch (born May 2, 1947) is an American attorney and politician who has served as the U.S. Representative for Vermont's at-large congressional district since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party and has been a major figure in Vermont politics for over three decades.

Welch served in the Vermont Senate from 1981 to 1989, including terms as Minority Leader. He was the Senate's president pro tempore from 1985 to 1989, the first Democrat to hold the position. In 1988, he gave up his seat to run for the United States House of Representatives and lost the primary for the Democratic nomination to Paul N. Poirier. He was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Vermont in 1990, and lost the general election to Republican Richard A. Snelling.

Welch continued to practice law and returned to politics in 2001, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Vermont Senate. He was reelected in 2002 and 2004 and served as Senate President from 2003 to 2007. In 2006, Welch made a successful run for the U.S. House of Representatives, winning the election to succeed Bernie Sanders, who was elected to the United States Senate.

Early life, education and career[edit]

Welch was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1947, where he attended local Catholic schools (Holy Name Grammar School and Cathedral High School). He graduated magna cum laude from College of the Holy Cross in 1969 and in 1973 earned a J.D. degree from Boalt Hall, the law school of the University of California, Berkeley.[1]

He was a partner for 30 years in the personal injury law firm Welch, Graham & Manby in White River Junction, Vermont.[1] Welch's legal career is the basis for the legal adventures of one of the lead characters in Jacob M. Appel's satiric novel, The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up (2012).[2]

Welch is married to Margaret Cheney, a former member of the Vermont House of Representatives who was appointed to the Vermont Public Service Board in 2013.[3] His first wife, Joan Smith, died of cancer in 2004. Welch has five stepchildren from his first marriage and three from his second.

Vermont government[edit]

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 was chosen as President pro tempore after Democrats gained control of the Senate.[1] Welch was the first Democrat to serve as Vermont's Senate President, since Vermont was a bastion for the Whigs and then the Republicans for more than 100 years beginning in the 1830s.[4]

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 to represent Vermont's at-large congressional district.

In 1990, Welch won the Democratic nomination for Governor of Vermont, but lost in the general election to Republican Richard Snelling.[1]

Welch did not run for another office for more than a decade; in 2001 he was appointed by 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.[1]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



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's 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.[5] Welch was the first Democrat to represent Vermont in the House since 1961, and only the second since 1853 (though Sanders caucused with the Democrats).

Welch during the 113th Congress

Welch was re-elected in 2008 with no major-party opposition, becoming the first Democrat to be reelected to the House from Vermont since 1848. He was in the unusual position of being both the Democratic and Republican nominee for the seat, due to Republican voters writing his name in on the blank primary ballot.[6]


Welch was re-elected with 64% of the vote against Republican nominee Paul Beaudry, Liberty Union nominee Jane Newton, Working Families nominee Sheila Coniff, and independent candidate Gus Jaccaci.[citation needed]


Welch easily defeated Republican nominee Mark Donka, Liberty Union candidate Jane Newton, and Independent candidates James "Sam" Desrochers and Andre LaFramboise with 72% of the vote.[citation needed]


Welch was re-elected to a fifth term with 64.4% of the vote, easily defeating Republican Mark Donka, Matthew Andrews of the Liberty Union Party and Independents Cris Ericson, Randall Meyer and Jerry Trudell.[citation needed]


Welch ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, and also got more votes in the Republican primary than any other candidate with 4.51% of the votes via write-ins. He defeated Liberty Union candidate Erica Clawson in the general election with 90% of the vote to Erica's 10%.[7]


Welch worked with former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on a bill to increase funding at the National Institutes of Health for pediatric research and with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan to reverse proposed regulations that would have banned the use of wooden shelves for ageing cheese wheels. He touts his bipartisanship and describes himself as "very independent." He bucked his party leadership by voting against arming and training Syrian rebels and opposes "boots on the ground" in dealing with ISIL. He believes climate change is a "glaring problem," opposes travel bans in response to the Ebola epidemic and supports immigration reform that addresses border concerns but does not close them.[8] During the Impeachment of President Donald Trump, Welch invited Trump to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in a response to Rep. Jim Jordan's criticism of the impeachment. Welch spoke directly after Jordan, stating, "I say to my colleague, I'd be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify," adding, "President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there."[9]


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.

Key votes[edit]

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 is not paid for and because I do not believe it will work." He later voted in favor of a new version of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act numbered H.R. 1424.

According to On The Issues,[10] Welch voted in favour, as follows on key issues:

  • Expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
  • Criminalizing oil cartels like OPEC. (May 2007)
  • 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 U.S. troops out of Iraq starting in 90 days. (May 2007)

Committee assignments[edit]

In the 110th Congress, Welch was a member of the Committee on Rules and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In the 111th Congress, Welch served on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

In the 112th Congress, Welch was a member of the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Beginning with the 112th Congress, Welch has also served as a Chief Deputy Whip, one of several who are part of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer's organization for managing legislation and votes on the House floor.

Since the 113th Congress, Welch has been a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Political positions[edit]

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,, 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 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).[12]

Impeachment controversy[edit]

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 Iraq War is a top priority, and impeachment would distract the Congress from addressing that outcome. Advocates of impeachment protested in Welch's Vermont offices.[13]

On the Iraq War, the Vermont Guardian[14] quoted Welch as saying "if we are going to end the war we are going to have to move beyond the 218 votes", meaning 216 Democrats and 2 Republicans, who voted for a war funding bill that included 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[14] 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 endorsed then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nomination in 2008.

Domestic issues[edit]

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.[15]

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.[15] Welch voted no on the November 7, 2009 amendment to President Obama's health care bill that prohibited federally funded abortions.[16] On the issue of gay rights, PFLAG and the Human Rights campaign rated Welch as 100% supportive of their position.[15] Welch has sustained a liberal stance on the issues of abortion and gay rights despite his identification as a Roman Catholic.[17]

Several organizations such as Americans for Fair Taxation and the National Taxpayers Union gave Welch 0 percent or F ratings.[18] Welch also voted no on the 2009-2010 Defense Spending Appropriations bill.[16]

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.[16] He received an A from the National Rifle Association, while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave him 0 percent.[15]

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.[19] 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.[20] Welch also received an "A" rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization.[15]

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.[21]

According to Representative Welch's May 5, 2010 entry on the Hill's Congress Blog,[22] 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.[23]

On February 19, 2016, Welch endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination.[24] He endorsed him again for the 2020 nomination.[25]

On December 18, 2019, Welch voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.[26]

Caucus memberships[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Peter Welch '73 Elected to Congress from Vermont". BerkeleyLaw. The Regents of the University of California. November 9, 2006. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  2. ^ Appel, JM. Phoning Home University of South Carolina Press, 2014
  3. ^ Office of the Governor of Vermont, Press Release: Gov. Shumlin appoints Rep. Margaret Cheney to Public Service Board Archived June 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, September 16, 2013
  4. ^ New York Times, The 1990 Elections: State By State; Northeast, November 7, 1990
  5. ^ "No Mud Flung in Race for House in Vt". Fox News.
  6. ^ "Write-ins give Welch GOP nomination". The Barre Montpelier Times Agnus. September 18, 2008. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012.
  7. ^ House Election Results: G.O.P. Keeps Control Sep 13, 2017
  8. ^ "Republican Donka tries again to unseat Welch". The Burlington Free Press. October 26, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  9. ^ "'You just got Welch'd': Vermont Rep's comments during Trump impeachment hearing make waves". Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  10. ^ "Peter Welch on the Issues". Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  11. ^ "Congressman Peter Welch: Committees and Caucuses". U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  12. ^ "Yale Daily News - Endowment spending may be mandated". Archived from the original on October 9, 2008.
  13. ^ "Protestors camp out in Welch's congressional office". March 20, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Vermont Guardian".
  15. ^ a b c d e "Project Vote Smart - Representative Peter F. Welch - Interest Group Ratings". May 14, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  16. ^ a b c "Project Vote Smart - Representative Peter F. Welch - Voting Record". July 30, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  17. ^ "Bio : Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) biography". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  18. ^ "Project Vote Smart - National Taxpayers Union Rating". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  19. ^ "Caring For Our Veterans". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  20. ^ "House passes Welch-authored resolution honoring Captain Richard Phillips and the U.S. Navy". April 22, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  21. ^ "Providing Health Care For All". Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  22. ^ "Energy efficiency means more jobs". May 5, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  23. ^ "VPR "Welch Is Hopeful Irene Repair Money Will Be Approved" - Transcript". November 3, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  24. ^ Burbank, April (February 19, 2016). "Rep. Peter Welch throws support behind Bernie Sanders". Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Krieg, Gregory (February 19, 2019). "Sanders taps new campaign manager, gets endorsements from top Vermont lawmakers". CNN. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  26. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
  27. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  28. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Archived from the original on October 22, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  29. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  30. ^ "90 Current Climate Solutions Caucus Members". Citizen´s Climate Lobby. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  31. ^ Caucuses of the United States Congress#C
  32. ^ "Committees and Caucuses". Congressman Peter Welch. December 13, 2012.
  33. ^ "Members". Safe Climate Caucus - Rep. Alan Lowenthal.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Madeleine Kunin
Democratic nominee for
Governor of Vermont

Succeeded by
Howard Dean
Vermont Senate
Preceded by
Member of the Vermont Senate
from Windsor County

January 7, 1981 – January 4, 1989
Succeeded by
Richard J. McCormack
Preceded by
Robert A. Bloomer
President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate
January 9, 1985 – January 4, 1989
Succeeded by
Doug Racine
Preceded by
Cheryl Rivers
Member of the Vermont Senate
from Windsor County

December 13, 2001 – January 3, 2007
Succeeded by
Alice Nitka
Preceded by
Peter Shumlin
President pro tempore of the Vermont Senate
January 8, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Succeeded by
Peter Shumlin
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bernie Sanders
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's at-large congressional district

January 3, 2007 – present
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Adrian Smith
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
John Yarmuth