By Christian Avard
Congressman Peter Welch had a lot on his mind Friday.
Vermont's congressman at-large returned from Washington after a brutal battle over gun control legislation and told up to 20 constituents at the Tuckerbox cafe that the fight is far from over. The Senate tried to pass a bill that would require background checks at gun shows and Internet sales.
The bill required a 60-vote majority in the Senate to pass, but proponents could only obtain 54, six votes shy of passage. According to Welch, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will reintroduce the legislation, but no date for that has been determined.
Welch was disappointed with the vote and candid with his frustrations.
"Congress isn't doing a good job and citizens have a right to be very upset," Welch said to constituents. "We've had one tragedy after another and ending in Newtown, Conn., where children were slaughtered, and we didn't even have a vote on a background check. That's a failure by Congress."
Welch said Congress must now pass President Barack Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion budget. According to The Associated Press, the budget proposal would include $242 billion in spending for road and rail projects, raise taxes on smokers and the wealthy, and result in savings in such federal programs as Medicare.
Welch said he's heard story after story of ordinary Vermonters coping with economic uncertainty, how students are struggling with college debt, and how small businesses are trying to make ends meet. According to Welch, a balanced approach will be necessary and that will include defense spending, saving money in health care costs, fixing the federal tax code, or taxing oil companies and hedge funds more. The other issue that must be addressed, Welch said, is decreasing the national debt.
"We have a long-term debt problem that can't be ignored. Democrats have to acknowledge that," Welch said.
With regards to the latest developments in the Boston Marathon attacks on Monday, Welch said he was well aware of the situation. As of Friday, police had killed one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, in Watertown, Mass., and the manhunt continued for the other suspect, his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, Mass.
What transpired over the last 24 hours was "astonishing" to Welch and he was "heartbroken" over the three deaths and over 160 injured at the Boston Marathon finish line. The House of Representatives held a moment of silence on Monday on the House floor after the bombings were reported.
Rep. Michael Capuano of Massachusetts read a statement to House Speaker John Boehner while Welch stood behind Capuano along with other members of Congress, Welch said.
"The representatives of Massachusetts are great. I'm only a delegation of one and they were always helpful when Vermont needed help," Welch said. "This hits close to home. It hit us all hard in Vermont."