Pat McDonald and Ben Kinsley co-hosted a show with Congressman Peter Welch on current events in Washington DC and the Congressman’s work on behalf of Vermonters. Peter appreciated the show’s tag line “Listening beyond the Sound Bites,” and agreed that in politics listening is more important than talking!
We asked Peter what he thought about President Trump’s reaction to Syria. Peter said that what happened in Syria was an incredible tragedy and he understood why the President responded the way he did. But he would like to know what exactly the President’s policy is towards Syria. He would also like to see more focus on refugees as the situation is heartbreaking with thousands having died trying to flee Syria. Despite some concerns, Peter felt the vetting process, which can last up to 3 years, was solid. He noted that most terrorist activities in the U.S. are conducted by “home-grown” terrorists which are harder to identify. He said we had to figure out a) how to defend against home grown terrorists and not live in fear and b) how to not overreact so that we don’t tread on an individual’s constitutional rights or exacerbate the problem.
We asked Peter what he thought about the President’s and Governor Scott’s contrasting positions on immigration. He admired Governor Scott’ position as he was concerned about those working on our farms. At a meeting called by Senator Sanders with ICE agents and others from Vermont, Peter said he hoped law enforcement personnel would use their discretion when dealing with farm workers and exercise some restraint. Peter reminded us that there is immigration reform policy in the pipeline which provides a pathway to citizenship. It’s not amnesty but requires an individual to pay taxes, pass citizenship tests, etc. which Peter supports. This is similar to an immigration reform plan put forward by President Bush.
We asked about the changes to the National Security Council with the addition and then removal of Steve Bannon. Peter said that the removal was a good thing and that he should never have been added to the Council in the first place. Peter was adamant that decisions made about the safety of the U.S. must be non-political and pointed to a long tradition of putting foreign policy experts on the Security Council as opposed to political appointees.
Despite having voted for the ACA when it first passed, Peter realizes that some changes to the bill are necessary. He voiced disappointed with the Republicans because for the past 7 years they have said the ACA should be repealed and replaced. Peter wondered what they have been doing all that time as they have yet to develop a workable replacement.
He said there were things about the ACA like pre-existing illnesses, coverage of children up to the age 26, etc. that were working and had widespread support. He believes that health care needs to be a bi-partisan effort and that all sides need to be brought into the discussion early on. We agreed that it would be bad to have the health care system implode, as a lot of people would be hurt.
The President’s budget was discussed next. Peter is concerned about many components, including cuts to Planned Parenthood and the $54B being transferred from domestic spending to military spending. He wants to know what the expectations are for that funding and the budget impacts many programs like Meals on Wheels, the Endowment for the Arts, and cuts to the EPA that impact Lake Champlain and water quality.
Peter said he was always impressed watching Vermonter’s doubling down to build their communities. This year, he had a much different conversations with Vermonters than in years past. He heard people’s concerns about the fundamentals of our democracy. We need to respect everyone’s contribution, protect freedom of speech, and learn how to work together. To watch what happened at Middlebury College was very disturbing.
Note: The comments reflected in this article are opinions stated by our guests. Any rebuttals are welcome and can be expressed on the websites and facebook pages of VFV and CFV. If you would like to see the show please go to vote802.com for a complete listing of Vote for Vermont shows or our YouTube channel.