By Katy Savage
RUTLAND—Congressman Peter Welch said his constituents are frustrated by the lack of progress in Congress and the apparent lack of agreement between legislators. Welch said he’s also frustrated.
Welch, D-Vt., of Norwich, spent Monday, April 2, in Rutland. He took questions from about 25 people at the Phoenix Books for a Congress in Your Community event. People there questioned the lack of progress on a number of issues, including the economy, immigration, transportation, health care and gun legislation.
“It doesn’t seem for (other) people that there’s any agreement in Washington on anything,” said Rutland Mayor David Allaire.
Allaire said the apparent gridlock in Washington, D.C. is impacting Rutland.
“Just being able to plan ahead and not know what’s coming down from Washington – that can be a concern to all local governments,” he said.
Allaire is a former House representative who worked with Welch when the Congressman was a senator.
“I certainly would have to agree with a lot of the folks who spoke that I share their frustration,” Allaire told the Mountain Times.
He said the gridlock is “not beneficial to the people in this country who are paying taxes and trying to do the right thing, working every day.”
Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, said she respects Welch. She was frustrated for similar reasons Allaire expressed.
“There’s nothing we can depend on,” Flory said as she explained planning ahead for federal funds was impossible.
Welch was critical of the work he and his colleagues have achieved as well. He said the slow progress stems from too much talk about President Donald Trump and not enough focus on what Americans need from Congress.
Welch mentioned the cost of health care and a clean energy as points Congress should pay more attention to.
“We should be talking about what we’re going to do for everyday Americans and not spend our time talking about Trump,” he said.
Before Phoenix Books, Welch visited Stafford Technical Center for a roundtable discussion with students.
The discussion occurred just after Rutland students organized a March For Our Lives event on March 24 to push legislators for tighter gun laws. March For Our Lives was a national student-led demonstration.
Welch, who said he supports universal background checks and banning assault weapons, said he was inspired by the student’s messages and action.
He was also inspired by students in career-track programs at the technical center. Welch met students studying to be welders, linemen and cosmetologists.
Welch said it’s important to talk about the career opportunities that tech centers provide.
“Teachers tell me there’s still some stigma about doing career education,” he said. “There shouldn’t be.”
Welch has been in Congress since 2007. He faces two Democratic challengers for the upcoming primary election Aug. 14.
Benjamin Mitchell of Westminster and Dan Freilich of Brownsville have both announced their candidacy.
Mitchell is an educator who leads the IMPACCT Academy in Keene, N.H., which provides disability services and career transition support for high school students. Mitchell is running a grassroots campaign. He wants to restore democracy, he says on his campaign website. Mitchell criticizes Welch’s $2.1 million of cash on hand in Welch’s campaign financing report.
Freilich is a former naval officer who works as a doctor at the Veterans Medical Center in White River Junction. He is running to challenge the status quo, according to his campaign website.