After helping vote down a continuing resolution Thursday, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., has more than a few Vermont heads spinning on whether he supports the government shutdown.
Welch, who stood on the House floor Jan. 15 demanding an end to the federal shutdown, two days later didn’t seem concerned about approximately 800,000 shutdown-affected federal workers.
On Thursday, House Republicans attempted to temporarily fund the government through Feb. 28, but Democrats blocked the effort with Welch’s support. The Vermont congressman voted “no” on continuing resolution H.J. Res. 28, apparently on partisan grounds.
On Jan. 11, Welch said he wanted to end the shutdown: “My highest priority is reopening federal government and getting federal employees and contractors back to work for the American people. In the meantime, my office is ready to assist, where possible, Vermonters affected by this unnecessary shutdown.”
Welch also invited Vermonters to contact his office with personal stories about how the shutdown is negatively affecting their daily lives. In a recent news release, Welch said he planned to share those hardship stories with President Donald Trump and congressional colleagues as he worked “to reopen the federal government.”
Those hardship stories, which Welch later shared from the House floor, included accounts of federal employees who were having problems meeting monthly bills after being furloughed.
Another story recounted the plight of Kingdom Construction, a business in the Northeast Kingdom. Welch relayed the owner’s account of his hardship.
“As the owner of Kingdom Construction, we employ nearly 30 full-time year-round construction workers and they were recently awarded a $2 million construction contract, but they can’t get the permits signed because the permit signers are on furlough. Those folks are not going to work,” Welch told fellow House members, relaying the business owner’s words.
He shared other accounts of distress caused by the shutdown.
“It’s somebody who has a microbrewery and can’t get the FDA inspection, it’s the construction company that can’t get the sign-off on a permit, it’s a home closing that can’t occur because the paperwork can’t be signed,” he said. “And this is costing our economy about $1 billion a week. We must make off-limits the tactic of shutting down government in order to get our way.”
After making those strong emotional appeals, Welch voted down the House’s attempt to provide paychecks for those federal employees. According to a news report appearing online by Government Executive, if the motion had succeeded and been signed into law, it would have “provided all furloughed and excepted federal employees with the paycheck they missed last week.”
Brooke Paige, a Republican from Washington and the 2018 GOP candidate for secretary of state, blasted Welch’s apparent flip-flop on helping furloughed federal workers living in Vermont.
“It appears that the Democrat leadership is so consumed by the so-called Trump Derangement Syndrome that they care more about having President Trump fail than protecting the nation and her citizens,” Paige told TNR. “Obedient Democrats like Peter Welch appear to have little choice but to follow their leader or risk being ostracized by the party leadership and loyalists.”
Six Democrats — Reps. Duke Cunningham of California, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Max Rose of New York and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey — voted for H.J. Res. 28.
On Tuesday, while leaving Burlington to return to Washington, D.C., Welch unveiled legislation to put an end to federal employees working without pay.
“It defies common sense and anyone’s definition of fairness to require federal employees to work without pay,” Welch said. “Never again should federal employees be caught in the middle of a budget standoff in Washington.”
Welch’s bill would immediately resume paychecks for hundreds of thousands of federal employees, including air traffic controllers, ICE agents, Coast Guard members, TSA agents, and others.
“This proposal will reopen the government immediately and allow every member of Congress the opportunity to vote up or down on border security funding and methods as well as protections for Dreamers and migrants with Temporary Protected Status. Congress needs to get back to legislating through an open, transparent and accountable process. It’s time to reopen the government. It’s time to vote,” he said.
Welch’s office staff was unavailable for comment due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.