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Peter Welch

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Peter Welch
Official portrait, 2023
United States Senator
from Vermont
Assumed office
January 3, 2023
Serving with Bernie Sanders
Preceded byPatrick Leahy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's at-large district
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2023
Preceded byBernie Sanders
Succeeded byBecca Balint
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
Minority Leader of the Vermont Senate
In office
January 5, 1983 – January 8, 1985
Preceded byRobert Daniels
Succeeded byAllen Avery
Member of the Vermont Senate
from the Windsor district
In office
December 13, 2001 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byCheryl Rivers
Succeeded byAlice Nitka
In office
January 7, 1981 – January 4, 1989
Serving with Chester Scott, John Hudson Howland, Edgar May, William Hunter
Preceded byHerbert Ogden
Succeeded byRichard McCormack
Personal details
Peter Francis Welch

(1947-05-02) May 2, 1947 (age 77)
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Joan Smith
(m. 1986; died 2004)
(m. 2009)
EducationCollege of the Holy Cross (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (JD)
WebsiteSenate website

Peter Francis Welch (born May 2, 1947) is an American lawyer and politician serving since 2023 as the junior United States senator from Vermont. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the U.S. representative for Vermont's at-large congressional district from 2007 to 2023. He has been a major figure in Vermont politics for over four decades, and is only the second Democrat to be elected a senator from the state.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Welch graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. He was a member of the Vermont Senate from 1981 to 1989, including terms as minority leader, then was the Senate's president pro tempore from 1985 to 1989, the first Democrat to hold the position. In 1988, Welch gave up his seat to run for the United States House of Representatives and lost the Democratic primary to Paul N. Poirier. He was the Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont in 1990, losing 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 re-elected in 2002 and 2004 and was Senate president from 2003 to 2007. In 2006, Welch was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, succeeding Bernie Sanders, who was elected to the United States Senate. In November 2021, Welch announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the 2022 United States Senate election in Vermont to succeed retiring Senator Patrick Leahy.[1][2] On August 9, 2022, he won the Democratic primary. On November 8, 2022, Welch won the general election, defeating Republican nominee Gerald Malloy.[3][4][5] Elected at age 75, he is the oldest person to become a freshman senator, a record previously held by Frederick H. Gillett.

Early life and career[edit]

Welch was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1947. He attended Cathedral High School (now Pope Francis Preparatory School). In 1969, he graduated from the College of the Holy Cross with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), magna cum laude, in history.[6] Welch spent a year in Chicago as a fellow at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, then enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, earning his Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1973.[7][8]

Welch "worked with low-income people on Chicago's West Side in the late 1960s"[9] as a community organizer. He worked for an organization that was affiliated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and its activities included attendance at an SCLC national convention in Atlanta. Participants there strategized and heard remarks from Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams, and Martin Luther King Jr.[10]

Welch worked for Lloyd Cutler, who later was White House Counsel during the administrations of presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, at a Washington law firm.[9]

After graduating from law school, Welch moved to Vermont in 1973. He was a law clerk for Judge Henry Black of the Vermont Superior Court.[9] He worked for several years as a public defender for low-income clients in Windsor County and Orange County.[9] Welch was a partner for 30 years in the personal injury law firm Welch, Graham & Manby in White River Junction, Vermont.[7]

Vermont government[edit]

In 1980, Welch was elected to the Vermont Senate from Windsor County. In his second term, Welch was chosen as the Minority Leader, and he became president pro tempore after Democrats gained control of the Senate.[7] Welch was the first Democrat to be 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.[11]

In 1988, Welch left the Vermont Senate to make an unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1990, Welch won the Democratic nomination for governor of Vermont but lost the general election to Republican Richard Snelling.[7]

Welch did not run for another office for more than a decade; in 2001, Governor Howard Dean appointed him to fill a vacant Vermont Senate seat in Windsor County. He was elected to the seat in 2002 and reelected in 2004, and again was president pro tempore.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



When Vermont's U.S. Representative, Bernie Sanders, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, Welch chose to run for Sanders's seat. He defeated Republican Martha Rainville in the general election, 53% to 45%, in a race where both candidates pledged to be entirely positive.[12] Welch was the first Democrat to represent Vermont in the House since 1961, and only the second since 1853 (though Sanders, an independent, caucused with the Democrats[13]).


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.[14]


Welch was reelected 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 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 reelected to a fifth term with 64.4% of the vote, 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% via write-ins. He defeated Liberty Union candidate Erica Clawson in the general election with 90% of the vote to Clawson's 10%.[15]


Welch was reelected to a seventh term with 69.2% of the vote, defeating Republican nominee Anya Tyino, Cris Ericson of the Marijuana Party, and Laura Potter of the Liberty Union Party.[16]


Welch was reelected to an eighth term with 67.3% of the vote, defeating Republican nominee Miriam Berry and Independent candidate Peter Becker.[17]


Welch and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at the premiere of The Simpsons Movie in 2007

One area where Welch was at odds with vocal constituents was the matter of the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Welch said that ending the Iraq War was a top priority, and impeachment would distract Congress from addressing that outcome. Advocates of impeachment protested at Welch's Vermont offices.[18]

Welch worked with former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on a bill to increase funding at the National Institutes of Health for pediatric research and with Representative 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", opposed travel bans in response to the Ebola epidemic and supports immigration reform that addresses border concerns but does not close them.[19]

In his first term, Welch attracted attention for his partnership with Senator Charles Grassley in challenging colleges and universities with substantial endowments to spend more of those funds on operating expenses (including, perhaps, lower tuition).[20]

On February 19, 2016, Welch endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president.[21] He endorsed him again in 2020.[22]

During the first impeachment of Donald Trump, Welch invited Trump to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in response to Jim Jordan's criticism of the impeachment. Welch spoke directly after Jordan, saying, "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."[23] On December 18, 2019, Welch voted for both articles of impeachment against Trump.[24]

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 was 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, he also was 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.

During the 113th, 114th, 115th, 116th, and 117th Congresses, Welch was a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Caucus memberships[edit]

U.S. Senate[edit]



On November 15, 2021, incumbent Patrick Leahy announced that he would not seek reelection in the 2022 U.S. Senate election. Welch was considered a possible contender for the seat.[33] On November 22, Welch announced his candidacy to succeed Leahy.[34] He won the Democratic primary by a large margin, and defeated Republican nominee Gerald Malloy in the general election.[35][36]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]

Gun control[edit]

Welch participated in the 2016 United States House of Representatives sit-in to support gun control.[38]

Welch supports a national assault weapons ban.[39]

LGBT rights[edit]

Welch supports transgender rights and gender-affirming care for transgender youth.[40]

Israel and Palestine[edit]

On November 26, 2023, Welch called for an indefinite ceasefire in the 2023 Israel-Hamas war. He was the third U.S. senator, the second member of Vermont's congressional delegation, and the first senator from Vermont to do so.[41]

In January 2024, Welch voted for a resolution, proposed by Bernie Sanders, to apply the human rights provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act to U.S. aid to Israel's military. The proposal was defeated, 72 to 11.[42]

Personal life[edit]

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.[43] His first wife, Joan Smith, died of cancer in 2004.[44] Welch has five stepchildren from his first marriage and three from his second.[45]


  1. ^ Forgey, Quint (November 22, 2021). "Rep. Peter Welch launches Senate bid for Leahy's seat". POLITICO. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  2. ^ "Rep. Peter Welch announces run for U.S. Senate". WCAX-TV. Burlington, Vt. November 22, 2021. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  3. ^ "Peter Welch wins U.S. Senate Democratic primary". www.yahoo.com. August 10, 2022. Retrieved August 17, 2022.
  4. ^ "Gerald Malloy wins Republican primary election for US Senate | Vermont Business Magazine". vermontbiz.com. Retrieved August 17, 2022.
  5. ^ AP Politics [@AP_Politics] (November 8, 2022). "BREAKING: Democrat Peter Welch wins election to U.S. Senate from Vermont. #APracecall at 7:00 p.m. EST" (Tweet). Retrieved November 8, 2022 – via Twitter.
  6. ^ Howard, Nathan (April 28, 2023). "2023 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Announcements". The Spire. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Peter Welch '73 Elected to Congress from Vermont". BerkeleyLaw. The Regents of the University of California. November 9, 2006. Retrieved October 6, 2008.
  8. ^ "Representative Peter Welch". National Association of Attorneys General. Retrieved December 23, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d Smallheer, Susan (November 19, 1980). "Sheer Determination Was Key to Welch's Stunning Victory". Rutland Herald. Rutland, VT. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Marcel, Joyce (November 26, 2017). "A gentleman in every sense of the word: Mr Welch goes to Washington". Vermont Biz.com. South Burlington, VT.
  11. ^ New York Times, The 1990 Elections: State By State; Northeast, November 7, 1990
  12. ^ Ring, Wilson (November 2, 2006). "No Mud Flung in Race for House in Vt". Fox News (AP).
  13. ^ McCrummen, Stephanie (February 5, 2016). "His Most Radical Move". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 5, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2022.
  14. ^ "Write-ins give Welch GOP nomination". The Barre Montpelier Times Agnus. September 18, 2008. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012.
  15. ^ House Election Results: G.O.P. Keeps Control Sep 13, 2017 nytimes.com
  16. ^ Welch wins 7th term as US House Representative for Vt Nov 6, 2018
  17. ^ Peter Welch Wins 8th Term in U.S. House Nov 3, 2020
  18. ^ "Protestors camp out in Welch's congressional office". Vermontguardian.com. March 20, 2007. Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  19. ^ "Republican Donka tries again to unseat Welch". The Burlington Free Press. October 26, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  20. ^ "Yale Daily News - Endowment spending may be mandated". Archived from the original on October 9, 2008.
  21. ^ Burbank, April (February 19, 2016). "Rep. Peter Welch throws support behind Bernie Sanders". BurlingtonFreePress.com. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  22. ^ Krieg, Gregory (February 19, 2019). "Sanders taps new campaign manager, gets endorsements from top Vermont lawmakers". CNN. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  23. ^ "'You just got Welch'd': Vermont Rep's comments during Trump impeachment hearing make waves". www.msn.com. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  24. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
  25. ^ "Congressman Peter Welch: Committees and Caucuses". U.S. House of Representatives. Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  26. ^ "90 Current Climate Solutions Caucus Members". Citizen´s Climate Lobby. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  27. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  28. ^ "Committees and Caucuses". Congressman Peter Welch. December 13, 2012. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  29. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  30. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Archived from the original on October 22, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  31. ^ "Caucus Membrs". US House of Representatives. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  32. ^ "Members". Safe Climate Caucus - Rep. Alan Lowenthal.
  33. ^ Hutzler, Alexandra (November 15, 2021). "Who Will Run for Patrick Leahy's Seat? Vermont's Longest-Serving Senator to Retire". Newsweek. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  34. ^ Forgey, Quint (November 22, 2021). "Rep. Peter Welch launches Senate bid for Leahy's seat". Politico. Archived from the original on November 22, 2021. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  35. ^ Cyrus, Connor; Hyde, Marlon (August 10, 2022). "Peter Welch on winning the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate". Vermont Public. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  36. ^ Ring, Wilson (November 8, 2022). "Welch moves from House to Senate to succeed Leahy in Vermont". Associated Press. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  37. ^ "Committee Assignments". Office of Senator Peter Welch.
  38. ^ "Welch Discusses Why He Joined House Floor Sit-In Over Gun Control". June 27, 2016. Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  39. ^ "Welch supports national ban on assault weapons". January 14, 2013. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
  40. ^ "Welch backs transgender therapy for children". June 29, 2022. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  41. ^ Mearhoff, Sarah (November 28, 2023). "Changing course, Peter Welch calls for 'indefinite' cease-fire in Gaza". VTDigger. Retrieved December 2, 2023.
  42. ^ Bolton, Alexander (January 16, 2024). "Democratic rebels send Biden stern message on Gaza". The Hill. Retrieved January 17, 2024.
  43. ^ Office of the Governor of Vermont, Press Release: Gov. Shumlin appoints Rep. Margaret Cheney to Public Service BoardArchived June 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, September 16, 2013
  44. ^ "Clipping from The Burlington Free Press". The Burlington Free Press. September 14, 2004. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  45. ^ "Welch, Cheney tie the knot". Rutland Herald. January 5, 2009. Retrieved December 23, 2022.

External links[edit]