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Welch Is Working His Minority Priorities

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Rep. Peter Welch pushed two big floor votes recently: on the debt limit and on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Both lost, but Welch was pleased they reached the floor.

Pelosi lauded Welch in a private Caucus meeting and on the floor before Tuesday's debt limit vote, even though she was one of 82 Democrats to vote against his position.

"In his letter, he is not demanding anything. He is saying, 'Let's get together and talk about how we can have, pass a bill that is a clean debt limit bill,'" she said on the floor.

Pelosi added: "Thank you, Mr. Welch, for your leadership in that regard. I know that it has been mischaracterized here, but I salute you for your leadership on that score."

With his letter demanding a clean debt limit vote, Welch rallied more than 110 of his Democratic colleagues to add their signatures to the idea of increasing the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion without spending cuts. Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) was the only member of elected leadership to support Welch's effort, and the measure was defeated 97-318. Still, Welch corralled a majority of his Caucus behind the vote despite fears among colleagues of the political ramifications.

"Those of us who voted are supportive of the president's efforts to negotiate a long-term solution, but not at any price," Welch said. "And we wanted to establish that we are willing to pay our bills, and we're not going to play political games on the debt ceiling."

While Tuesday's vote was a political exercise as part of the ongoing deficit reduction talks, one Democratic lawmaker pointed out it was also "an opportunity for Members to have something to vote for."

"It's their record of saying I voted for debt relief, I just didn't vote for cuts to Medicare," the lawmaker said, noting the vote provided political cover to those Members who will likely oppose any deal that calls for spending cuts.

Welch is not part of the bipartisan talks being led by Vice President Joseph Biden to craft a deal on the debt ceiling, nor is he the leadership's go-to Member on fiscal issues. But Rep. David Price, who worked closely with Welch on the debt limit strategy, said the two believed it was important for Democrats to take a stand on raising the debt ceiling and that Welch helped lead the charge.

"He did a good job of articulating the rationale for both parties really to get away from this business of playing politics with the debt limit," the North Carolina Democrat said. "We have registered our view that this country pays its bills. We don't want to mess around with the full faith and credit of the United States."

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