Welch Says Public Pressure Might Force Budget Settlement

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch thinks the budget stalemate in Congress could be broken if voters across the country demanded action from their elected officials.

Welch is hoping that a special congressional budget committee will propose a package that includes budget cuts and tax increases.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) Over the course of the next 10 weeks, the 12-person special committee will try to reach agreement on a plan to reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  The panel has six Republican members and six Democrats. 

If the committee is unable to agree on a plan by the middle of November, automatic budget cuts will go into place. 

Fifty percent of these cuts will come from defense spending and the other half will come from domestic programs.

Welch is hoping that Republican leaders will drop their opposition to new tax revenue if the Democrats agree to make changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid:

(Welch) "I think the best way to get from here to there is with everything on the table. Because if there’s a plan and everybody’s sharing in the sacrifice, then everybody can see that, ‘Yes, there’s a little bit of pain for me, I’m paying a little bit more in taxes.’ Or, we’ve had to make some adjustments here in some of the entitlements to make it stronger and more sustainable. Then I think you get buy in."

(Kinzel) Welch is cautiously optimistic that a compromise can be reached if voters across the country express their strong frustration with the current state of politics in Washington.

(Welch) "If the members of that committee, Republicans and Democrats, are experiencing the same thing in their districts as I am  here in Vermont, where the Vermonters I see basically say to me, ‘Peter, why don’t you guys work together. You know, get something done, solve the problem.’"

(Kinzel) Some members of Congress are urging their leaders to call the House and Senate back to Washington to deal with the nation’s economic crisis. Welch says he’s willing to end his August recess if Republicans and Democrats can agree on a course of action.

(Welch) "If they had a plan going back to Congress to enact it and act on it, absolutely. But just to go back to Congress when there’s been this enormous division and you get back there and you don’t have the foundation for progress, I’m not sure that would be a useful thing."

(Kinzel) Welch now serves as a chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus. He says he plans to use this leadership position to encourage his colleagues to accept a compromise package that includes both tax increases and changes to entitlement programs.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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