Peter Welch

This article is about the US politician. For the British actor, see Peter Welch (actor).
Peter Welch
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large district
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Preceded by Bernie Sanders
Member of the Vermont Senate
from the Windsor district
In office
January 8, 2001  January 3, 2007
Preceded by Cheryl Rivers
Succeeded by Alice Nitka
In office
January 1981  January 1989
Preceded by Sarah E. Buxton
Succeeded by Richard McCormack
Personal details
Born Peter Francis Welch
(1947-05-02) May 2, 1947
Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Joan Smith (Deceased)
Margaret Cheney
Alma mater College of the Holy Cross
UC Berkeley School of Law
Religion Roman Catholicism

Peter Francis Welch (born May 2, 1947) is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who has been serving as the U.S. Representative for Vermont's at-large congressional district since 2007.

He previously served in the Vermont Senate from 1981 to 1989, where he had spells as the Minority Leader and President pro tempore. In 1988 he gave up his seat to run for the House of Representatives, losing in the Democratic primary to House Majority Leader Paul N. Poirier. He was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1990, losing to former Republican Governor Richard A. Snelling by 52% to 46%.

He returned to politics in 2001 when he was appointed back to the Vermont Senate. He was re-elected in 2002 and 2004 before making a successful run for the House of Representatives in 2006 to replace Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders, who was elected to the United States Senate.

Early life, education and career

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 law 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] [3]

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.[4] His first wife, Joan Smith, died of cancer in 2004. Welch has five stepchildren from his first marriage and now has three stepchildren in his second.

Vermont government

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.[5]

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



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


Welch was re-elected in 2008 with no major-party opposition, becoming the first Democrat to be reelected to the House from Vermont in 158 years. 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.[7]


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.


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.


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.


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%.[8]


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.[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):

Key votes

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, Welch voted YES, as follows on key issues:

Committee assignments

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

As of September 2007, Welch’s congressional website depicted his stand on issues and legislation, as follows:

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.)[11]

Impeachment controversy

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 protested in Welch's Vermont offices.[12]

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 [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 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 Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Domestic issues

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.[13]

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.[13] Welch voted no on the November 7, 2009 amendment to President Obama's health care bill that prohibited federally funded abortions.[14] On the issue of gay rights, PFLAG and the Human Rights campaign rated Welch as 100% supportive of their position.[13] Welch has sustained a liberal stance on the issues of abortion and gay rights despite his identification as a Roman Catholic.[15]

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.[16] Welch also voted no on the 2009-2010 Defense Spending Appropriations bill.[14]

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.[14] He received an A from the National Rifle Association, while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave him 0 percent.[13]

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.[17] 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.[18] Welch also received an "A" rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization.[13]

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.[19]

According to Representative Welch’s May 5, 2010 entry on the Hill's Congress Blog,[20] 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.[21]

On February 19, 2016, Welch endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.[22]

Caucus Memberships


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "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. Poets & Writers, May 2013
  4. Office of the Governor of Vermont, Press Release: Gov. Shumlin appoints Rep. Margaret Cheney to Public Service Board, September 16, 2013
  5. New York Times, The 1990 Elections: State By State; Northeast, November 7, 1990
  6. "No Mud Flung in Race for House in Vt". Fox News.
  7. "Write-ins give Welch GOP nomination". The Barre Montpelier Times Agnus. September 18, 2008.
  9. "Republican Donka tries again to unseat Welch". The Burlington Free Press. October 26, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  10. "Congressman Peter Welch: Committees and Caucuses". U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  11. Yale Daily News - Endowment spending may be mandated
  12. "Protestors camp out in Welch's congressional office". March 20, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Project Vote Smart - Representative Peter F. Welch - Interest Group Ratings". May 14, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  14. 1 2 3 "Project Vote Smart - Representative Peter F. Welch - Voting Record". July 30, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  15. "Bio : Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) biography". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  16. "Project Vote Smart - National Taxpayers Union Rating". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  17. "Caring For Our Veterans". Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  18. "House passes Welch-authored resolution honoring Captain Richard Phillips and the U.S. Navy". April 22, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  19. "Providing Health Care For All". Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  20. "Energy efficiency means more jobs". May 5, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  21. "VPR "Welch Is Hopeful Irene Repair Money Will Be Approved" - Transcript". November 3, 2011. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  22. Burbank, April (February 19, 2016). "Rep. Peter Welch throws support behind Bernie Sanders". Retrieved February 20, 2016.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Bernie Sanders
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Tim Walz
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
John Yarmuth
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