Bob Kinzel | July 31,
Congressman Peter Welch has one of
the most liberal voting records in Washington. At the same time, he�s
one of the few Democrats to work closely with some of the most
conservative Republicans in the House.
"There is a pretty small universe of people that I would
describe that way out of the 435." - South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey
Gowdy describing Peter Welch's collaborative style in
Welch�s work on the House
Oversight Committee serves as a good example of his approach to politics.
For the past year, the committee has been the scene of some extremely
Republican leaders on the panel have been investigating if the I.R.S.
improperly targeted the activities of some conservative non-profit
political groups. And Democrats have accused the Republicans of
misrepresenting the facts in this case in order to embarrass the Obama
During a hearing
when Republicans were grilling the I.R.S. director, Welch was one of
the few Democrats to acknowledge that it�s important to look at the
activities of the agency.
�That in my view is a worthy topic of investigation,� said Welch. �No
group should be targeted because of their political affiliation
whether they�re conservative or liberal, I totally agree with
But Welch also cautioned
Republicans on the panel not to jump to conclusions and assume the worst
�Because the whole point of accuse first and examine facts second is to
attack the very legitimacy of the organization that�s being
collaborative style was evident 10 years ago when he served as the president of
the Vermont Senate.
Former Republican Gov. Jim Douglas says Welch�s willingness to work
together resulted in the passage of Act 68, Catamount Health Care, permit
reform, and an effort to help Vermont�s dairy
�I always found Peter an honest
broker, someone who actually wanted to accomplish something which isn�t true
of some people in politics today,� said Douglas. �He wanted at the
end of the day to say �look at what we did.'�
South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy describes himself
as one of the most conservative Republican members in the House. He
serves on the Oversight Committee and recently was named to chair the
special panel to investigate the attack on the U.S. embassy in
I asked him
if Welch made a special effort to talk with House
�It is true, and I�ll prove it
to you like any good former prosecutor,� said Gowdy. �I was at a
breakfast with another Republican congressman yesterday, and the group
sitting around the table just said what Democrat do you work best with ?
Or is it easy to have a conversation with about policy? And the other
Republican and I simultaneously said Peter
And Gowdy says Welch�s overall approach
is very unusual.
willingness to say, you know, I�m not just going to look at how my
leadership expects me to vote, I�m going to look at the issue and if my
side is wrong, he�ll say they�re wrong,� said Gowdy. �There�s a pretty
small universe of people that I would describe that way out of the
Cynthia Lummis is
the sole House member from Wyoming and she�s one of the original members
of the House Tea Party caucus.
She describes Welch as a person who is always searching for
ability to find that 10 or 20 percent of the issue that he may agree
with someone on and then focus on that 10 or 20 percent is what makes him
very effective both in reaching across the aisle and working within
his own party,� said Lummis.
The Washington political media has noticed Welch�s cooperative
style. Emma Dumain covers the House for Roll Call, a newspaper
that closely follows the activities of Congress. She says Welch is one
of the few Democrats who consistently tries to work with the
�(Welch) has time
and again expressed a willingness and a real interest, real enthusiasm,
eagerness to work with members on the other side of the aisle,� said
Dumain. �You can tell that he relishes those
Dumain says Welch�s approach
is also unusual because he�s part of the House Democratic leadership
�And even though
Democrats and Republicans would discourage their own from interacting
with the others, Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steney
Hoyer and others haven�t given him a particularly hard time
about it,� said Dumain. �I think they�re okay with him doing what he�s
collaborative style, Welch can be very critical of House Republican
leaders. In recent weeks, he has strongly accused them of taking short term
approaches on immigration issues and efforts to stabilize the federal
Highway Trust Fund.