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Peter Welch has represented Vermonters in Congress since 2007. In an era of partisanship and division, he is widely recognized as a progressive leader and a skillful legislator who chooses governing over gridlock.
He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and graduated from the College of the HolyCross. As a member of the first class of Robert F. Kennedy Fellows, he fought housing discrimination in Chicago after college and went on to earn a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. After law school, he settled in Vermont’s Upper Valley where he worked as a public defender and then founded a small law practice.
He was elected to the Vermont Senate in 1980 and later was selected to lead the chamber, becoming the first Democrat in Vermont’s history to hold the position of Senate President Pro Tem.
Peter and Margret at their home in Norwich, Vermont
In Congress, Peter is a cosponsor of the Green New Deal and is a leading advocate for lowering the cost of prescription drugs, providing affordable childcare, expanding access to broadband in rural America, and protecting our imperiled democracy.
He serves as a chief deputy whip for the House Democratic Caucus and is a senior member of the influential Energy and Commerce Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee. He also serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Peter is married to Margaret Cheney. They share a home in Norwich, Vermont.
What was once a gateway to the middle-class has become a crushing financial burden on Americans trying to achieve the American Dream of a better life. The cost of college has exploded out of control even as employers increasingly expect a degree for entry-level positions. Peter knows we need to expand access to all forms of higher education, lower the cost of attendance, and reduce the burden of student loans.
Making college affordable
Cosponsored the Debt Free College Act to incentivize states to achieve debt free college by unlocking matching federal funds.
Expanding access to community college and public colleges
Cosponsored the College for All Act to waive tuition and fees for every community college student and qualifying students at public colleges and universities.
Reducing the burden of student loans
Cosponsored the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act to double the Pell Grant award and tie grants to inflation increases.
Advocated for student loan forgiveness for graduates employed in public service jobs.
Signed a letter to President Biden, calling on him to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt, per borrower.
Everyone — no matter their zip code or income — deserves access to quality, affordable housing. But housing costs in America and Vermont continue to rise, squeezing the middle class and putting the American dream out of reach for the next generation. To attract more young people to Vermont and ease the burden on those who have lived here for decades, we must invest in building new affordable housing.
- Fought to pass the American Rescue Plan, which ensured Vermont received $11 billion towards affordable housing construction.
- Voted to pass the Build Better Act, which included a $150 billion investment in affordable housing efforts.
- Cosponsored the Moving Forward Act, which would significantly increase annual housing tax credits and provide $100 billion for other affordable housing programs.
Peter fights to support Vermont’s farmers. Despite the immense challenges they face, our farmers and food networks have been the backbone of Vermont communities for generations. They must play a role in our future local food system, the fight against climate change, and our state economy.
Defending dairy farmers
Working to strengthen the dairy safety net with the Margin Protection Program, protect our trade agreements to ensure Vermont dairy has access to international markets, and institute a supply management system.
Protecting organic dairy
Pushed back against Horizon Organic and its parent company Danone on their decision to leave our organic dairy farms behind. Continue to advocate for increased support to protect Vermont’s organic dairy farmers.
Fighting for more organic research funding, better oversight and enforcement of national organic standards that protect high-quality organic producers from bad actors.
Ending corn ethanol subsidies
Working to end The Renewable Fuel Standard, an artificial corn ethanol subsidy that raises the cost of feed for farmers, damages small engines, and harms the environment.
Protecting the definition of dairy
Introduced the Dairy Pride Act which would require the Food and Drug Administration to enforce the dairy standards of identity.
Help Vermont families and children get access to affordable, nutritious meals
Working to expand SNAP benefits, achieve universal school meals, increase funding for food banks, and help Vermonters in need.
Climate and the Environment
A healthy environment doesn’t just provide the air we breathe and the water we drink, it supports entire industries in Vermont and across the country, creates recreational opportunities for families, and makes us all feel better to be outside. Peter is fighting to make sure future generations have equal opportunities to explore and take advantage of the great outdoors. That’s why he’s a cosponsor of the Green New Deal: because he knows we can confront climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs through energy efficiency and clean energy projects. And he understands we don’t have the luxury of time — we must act now.
- Fighting climate change
Cosponsored the Green New Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs and addressing problems of economic inequality and racial injustice.
Deploying renewable energy across the United States
Sponsored a bill calling for 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
- Ensuring our homes are safe to live in and energy efficient
Championed the lifesaving Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help low-income families pay their energy bills through freezing cold winters and scorching summers.
Authored Hope for Homes Act to establish a grant program for people looking to invest in energy efficiency upgrades in their homes.
- Ending fossil fuel subsidies
Supports eliminating harmful fossil fuel and corn ethanol subsidies that exacerbate climate change.
Protecting our air and water
Supported the PFAS Action Act of 2021, comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to protect all Americans from harmful “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, including assistance for water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities.
Introduced the American Renewable Energy Act of 2021 to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and drive the deployment of clean energy resources around the country to improve public health.
Conserving public lands
Cosponsored the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide permanent funding annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and boost much-needed maintenance in our national parks and other public lands.
Boosting outdoor recreation
Introduced The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act to more than double funding for the development and maintenance of outdoor recreational trails, giving millions of Americans greater access to outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law over 30 years ago, thanks to the hard work of activists in the disability rights movement. While we’ve made a lot of progress since then, Peter understands we still have a lot of work to do in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities. Peter is fighting for equal access for people with disabilities to public accommodations and employment opportunities.
- Supported American Rescue Plan increases in funding for home and community based services for individuals with disabilities, including behavioral health support.
There are gun safety reform measures that enjoy strong public support across party lines that we can enact today, without undermining Second Amendment rights. Peter believes we need to do just that in order to address the epidemic of gun violence in our country and save thousands of lives each year.
Working to pass universal background checks for gun purchases
Cosponsored the Bipartisan Background Checks Act to require background checks on all commercial gun sales.
Advancing a ban on assault weapons
Cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban Act to prohibit the sale of assault weapons.
Advocating for additional common sense reforms
Supported removal of prohibition on gun violence research by the CDC.
Working to ban bump stocks and limit the size of ammunition clips.
Cosponsored a “red flag” bill, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, to allow relatives and law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from individuals in crisis.
Our nation’s current health care system leaves millions of people behind. Because lifesaving prescription drugs or health care aren’t helpful if Americans can’t afford them. And the pandemic has only highlighted the inequities different groups face in terms of both health care access and health outcomes. That’s why Peter has been fighting for Medicare for All: because he believes that the fear of losing insurance shouldn’t keep you at a job you don’t want and that no one should have to make the impossible choice between putting food on the table or getting the care they need.
Throughout his career, Peter has been a leading champion for prescription drug reform, helping pass legislation through the House that will cut the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs for all Americans. Our work isn’t over. Americans have been ripped off by Big Pharma for too long, and Peter believes that it’s time to finally stand up to the drug companies and stand up for Americans.
Fighting for Medicare for All
Cosponsored the Medicare for All Act of 2021, which would expand Medicare to provide comprehensive benefits to every person in the United States.
Lowering the cost of prescription drugs and taking on Big Pharma’s price-gouging
Cosponsored the Lower Drug Costs Now Act to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug companies, which would lower prescription drug costs for all Americans.
Expanding access to telehealth
The expansion of telehealth is particularly helpful in getting access to care to some of Medicare’s more disadvantaged populations, including people in rural areas – that’s why Peter introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act to expand the use and availability of telemedicine.
Eliminating health inequities
Cosponsored the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, which would comprehensively address America’s Black maternal mortality and morbidity crisis.
Cosponsored the COVID Community Care Act, which would provide funding to HHS to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 in medically underserved communities.
- Fighting for Frontline Healthcare Workers
Cosponsored the Workplace Violence Protection for Health Care and Social Services Workers Act, which would require the Department of Labor to establish protections from workplace violence in the health care sector.
Cosponsored the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act, which would provide federal and private student loan forgiveness to certain frontline health care workers.
Cosponsored the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which would provide grants to improve mental and behavioral health and prevent burnout among health care providers.
#### Voting Rights
Peter was in the Capitol when the violent mob attacked the heart of our democracy on January 6th – and living through that experience and its aftermath has fueled a deeper sense of urgency to protect our democracy. With Republicans in state legislatures across the country working to enact laws that will suppress Americans’ right to vote and dark money pouring into campaigns in an attempt to undermine free and fair elections, Peter has been a champion of voting rights and campaign finance and election reforms that will put power back in the hands of the people.
- Making it easier to vote
Cosponsored and helped pass the For the People Act in the House, which aims to expand voting rights by protecting against partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and expanding voter registration options like vote-by-mail and early voting.
Cosponsored and helped pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which aims to restore much-needed protections against voting restrictions and redistricting discrimination targeting voters of color.
Getting dark money out of politics and strengthen our ethics laws
Supports a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision and campaign finance and election reforms that will put power back in the hands of the people.
Preserving election integrity to ensure the peaceful transitions of power
Cosponsored the Protecting Our Democracy Act to create a more transparent and accountable government, address abuses of presidential power, and ensure our elections are secure.
Peter strongly believes that the cost of the war has to include the cost of caring for the warrior when they return home. He’s worked with veterans and their families and has seen firsthand the long-term impacts of their service, including the physical, mental, and financial toll. Peter knows that America owes them for the sacrifices they’ve made while protecting our nation, and has championed numerous pieces of legislation to aid veterans and their families. Peter is committed to making sure these soldiers get access to the health care and benefits they need.
- Streamline access to VA services for veterans exposed to burn pits
Cosponsored H.R. 3967, the Honoring Our PACT Act, to establish a presumption of service connection and provide VA healthcare to veterans exposed to airborne hazards and burn pits.
Co-led the Burn Pit Registry Expansion Act (H.R. 4400) and the Department of Defense Burn Pits Health Provider Training Act (H.R. 4397).
Expand mental health services and improve access for all veterans
Cosponsored the Revising and Expediting Actions for the Crisis Hotline (REACH) for Veterans Act (H.R. 5073), which would improve the Veterans Crisis Line.
Support additional funding for the Veterans Administration and its services
Called for additional funding for veterans’ health care and health research, housing, and supportive services.
End veteran homelessness in America
Called for increased funding for the VA Supportive Housing Program, which provides housing and supportive services to homeless veterans.
Unions & Frontline Workers
Peter believes that everyone deserves bargaining rights and a voice in the workplace and that strong unions improve the lives of workers with good wages, safer working conditions, and better protections.
Cosponsored the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would expand labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace.
- Supporting Our Frontline Workers
Supported the HEROES Act, which would have created a $200 billion fund to increase pay for essential frontline workers.
Support setting minimum nurse-to-patient staffing requirements to better protect nurses and patients.
Cosponsored the Workplace Violence Protection for Health Care and Social Services Workers Act, which would require the Department of Labor to establish necessary protections from workplace violence for nurses and other healthcare workers.
Cosponsored the Dr.Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which would establish grants and other requirements to support healthcare workers’ mental health.
Cosponsored the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act, which would provide federal and private student loan forgiveness to certain frontline health care workers.
Reproductive rights are under attack across this country. Peter knows that we can’t count on the most conservative Supreme Court in modern history to do the right thing and protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. This would have a serious and disproportionate impact on people of color and low-income or rural populations. In this urgent moment, Peter is proud to be an ally in the fight to protect and expand reproductive freedom in Vermont and across the country and will continue to be a steadfast partner in this fight if elected to the Senate.
Cosponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act which would codify Roe v. Wade into law and protect reproductive freedom for all.
Support fully funding Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning services.
Cosponsored the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act, which would require the VA to provide contraceptives without a copay for veterans who receive their care through the VA health system.
Rebuilding The Middle Class
Peter has talked with Vermonters in every corner of the state, and he knows the struggles that they face. Working Vermonters are getting squeezed by wages that don’t keep up with inflation, college degrees that create immense student debt, and a global health pandemic that’s caused massive job disruption. Women have left the workforce in staggering numbers throughout the pandemic — largely due to childcare needs, or to take care of family members at home. Meanwhile, they’re still fighting for equal pay for equal work. Peter is working in Congress to rebuild the American middle-class and create more job opportunities for American workers by prioritizing Main Street instead of Wall Street.
Peter got his start in public service in the civil rights movement, after he left college to go to Chicago to work for a community organization fighting discriminatory housing practices. There he witnessed firsthand the ways in which racism in our county is systemic and ingrained. That experience still motivates him to this day. The only way to move towards a truly equitable future is by addressing these injustices head on. Peter understands that these efforts must include environmental justice, economic justice, the protection of voting rights, and address disparities in health care and our criminal justice system.
One person died every two days of an overdose in Vermont last year, and many more struggled with the crushing weight of addiction to opioids. Families in every corner of the state are impacted by this disease, but we can turn the tide of the epidemic if we have the political will. Increasing access to evidence-based treatment will save and improve hundreds of lives every year.
Peter is committed to protecting every LGBTQ+ American’s individual and civil rights from discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. LGBTQ+ Americans still face barriers to everyday life, including discrimination in public housing, adoption, military service, and education. No one is equal until we’re all equal, and Peter will fight until the LGBTQ+ community has full rights and protections in America.