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Highlights from U.S. Senate debate with Gerald Malloy and Peter Welch

Vermont Edition's Mikaela Lefrak hosted a debate Thursday with candidates for U.S. Senate: Republican nominee Gerald Malloy, right, and Democratic nominee Peter Welch.

The two major party candidates for Vermont's open seat in the U.S. Senate — vacant now that Sen. Patrick Leahy is retiring — met Thursday in a Vermont Public debate moderated by Vermont Edition co-host Mikaela Lefrak. Republican nominee and Army veteran Gerald Malloy, from Weathersfield, faced off against Democratic nominee and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who lives in Norwich.

Watch the full debate here.

Here are the highlights.


Both candidates agreed humans contribute to global warming. But they see a different role for government in addressing climate change.

"Well, there's got to be governmental policy that sets in motion the market dynamics that can help the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy affordable for Vermonters and for Americans," Welch said. "And in the legislation we just passed — where there was $390 billion allocated to climate change initiatives, everything from energy efficiency to technology to installing electric-vehicle charging stations — is the first step."

Malloy said while he is in favor of reducing emissions, he doesn't think we're in any existential threat or a climate crisis.

"I don't think we should be backing into the Green New Deal and causing financial hardship," he said. "It would certainly be great to have that oil and gas independence ... I would look for industry to develop capability for future energy. I actually talked about wanting independence for the United States' current energy, future energy, critical technology and food."

Malloy added that he sees too much government intervention into industry.

"Let industry grow that capability on its own. We do not have access to the resources that we need right now. China does," he said.


When asked how to address inflation and its effects on Vermonters, the candidates have different priorities.

Malloy wants to approach the issue by reducing government spending.

"Number one is to have fiscal responsibility and spend within a budget that will ensure — well, we have a debt problem right now at $31 trillion. That's a cancer that is crushing our economy right now," Malloy said. "And will continue to do so unless we address it and start spending within a budget."

Welch said he wants to "help folks who really need it."

"I'm really happy that the cost-of-living increase that I supported for Social Security is going to be 8.7% this year — that's going to help," he said. "We've got to have food banks that are well supplied. You know, during COVID, for the first time, lots of Vermonters who never needed help putting food on the table needed it, and I think that's going to happen again this winter. We've got to maintain low-income heating assistance and increase it significantly."

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While both candidates said they would invest federal dollars to ease the strain on child care workers, centers and parents, they differ on where they'd look to find those funds.

"I would take a look at the discretionary spending that we do have to support something like child care and early education programs, providing money to the states to do that," Malloy said. "I need to take a very close look at what we are spending to get back to within a budget. I would reprioritize. For instance, I would not be spending $80 billion on 87,000 new IRS agents. Maybe some of that $80 billion could go towards early education and child care funding."

Welch responded: "I mean, we spend a trillion dollars in the military budget, but we don't do much at all on child care. So we need universal childcare, we have to have it for the benefit of our kids. That's a great investment for the security of our parents, and for the strength of our economy. And I would continue to support it, and I'd find ways to pay for it."


Both candidates said the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine in fighting off Russia’s invasion, with both characterizing Vladimir Putin as the aggressor.

"This was a war of choice started by Putin, number one," Welch said. "Number two, the way he's prosecuting the war is to attack civilians — not just military personnel — civilians, and he did that just yesterday. And we're all inspired by the extraordinary resistance and recent success of Ukraine military. So my view, we and our allies should continue providing military aid. We should continue providing humanitarian aid. And we should do all we can to help Ukraine defend itself."

Malloy pointed out he's a retired Army officer who served for 22 years on active duty.

"And I'm also a combat veteran," he said. "My hat's off to the Ukrainians, I look for that peaceful resolution as soon as possible that is amenable to the people of Ukraine. I do support continuing to provide military equipment to Ukraine. It has been disappointing to watch us take so very long for that equipment to get to Ukraine particularly the HIMARS, as I was a MLRS [missile] attack commander, which is the predecessor to HIMARS, it shouldn't have taken that long."


The debate ended with the candidates agreeing on Vermont’s best product: maple syrup. Malloy added that he makes his own.

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