(Host) The pomp and circumstance was not only in Vermont on Thursday. In Washington, Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch were sworn in as new members of the 110th Congress.
From Capitol Hill, Terry Gildea reports:
(Gildea) The festivities began before noon, when Welch hosted a reception at his new office. The congressman greeted supporters and well wishers, including former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman, Howard Dean.
(Dean) “So this is the new digs huh? We love it.”
(Gildea) Vermont’s Senior Senator, Democrat Patrick Leahy also dropped by to congratulate the new congressman. He says Welch brings valuable experience to Washington.
(Leahy) “Peter is a legislator’s legislator. He’s gotten one of the most coveted committee assignments ever. I think Vermont’s very very fortunate.”
(Gildea) Welch will have an early and powerful influence on all the legislation that moves through the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to put him on the House Rules Committee, a rare honor for a freshman member. Welch is excited about the role he will play.
(Welch) “Your job is to be a traffic cop for all the legislation that comes out of other committees. On the Rules Committee I’ll be able to get actively involved in any legislation that’s going to go to the floor on the economic issues and foreign policy issues.”
(Gildea) One of the first bills to pass by Welch on the Rules committee will be a lobbying reform package. He says restoring integrity to the House is a top priority.
(Welch) “This is all like basic elemental fairness that in Vermont we take for granted, but apparently it hasn’t been the way they’ve done work here.”
(Gildea) Welch and other members-elect then assembled with the rest of their colleagues on the House Floor to officially convene the 110th Congress.
(Woman speaks) “The members-elect will please remain standing and join in the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag.”
(Members-elect) “I pledge allegiance too the flag of the United States of America and to the republic “
(Gildea) He was sworn in with the rest of his freshman class later in the afternoon. Straight across the U.S. Capitol, Independent Bernie Sanders was officially sworn in as a Senator by Vice President Dick Cheney.
(Chaney) “Repeat after me. Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that you take this obligation freely “
(Gildea) But Sanders is ready to stop basking in the glow of his victory and get down to business. He plans to introduce bills that he says will protect the middle class.
(Sanders) “I think there’s a great deal of concern about rural economic development, the fact that we are not creating the kind of good paying jobs in the state especially in the rural areas that we need, and that’s an issue we’ll be working very hard on. And of course, we need to have a national healthcare program which guarantees healthcare to all people.”
(Gildea) And Sanders will tackle those issues on the five committees he’s been appointed to. But he says his top priority is ending the Iraq war.
(Sanders) “The people of Vermont are extremely concerned about Iraq. They’re not happy with the President’s policies or his desire to escalate the war even more. And I will be working on an effort to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can.”
(Gildea) For a few more moments, Sanders and Welch will celebrate their victories. But soon the hard work of delivering for the people of Vermont will begin.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Terry Gildea on Capitol Hill.