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Rep. Welch's Week In DC: Guns, Border Wall Money, And Questions For Michael Cohen

Rep. Peter Welch.
Alex Brandon
Associated Press File
Rep. Peter Welch, pictured here in April 2018, will be dealing with a number of controversial issues this week in the U.S. House.

It's going to be a busy week in Washington, D.C., for Rep. Peter Welch. The Vermont congressman is right in the middle of the debate over a number of controversial issues.

The fact that these issues are under consideration in the U.S. House this week reflects the enormous change that has taken place since the Democrats took over control after the November election.

National Emergency Declaration

The first issue up is a proposal that disapproves of President Donald Trump's decision to declare a national emergency in order to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It's likely that this vote will take place on Tuesday.

More from VPR: Vermont Congressional Delegation Criticizes Trump's Emergency Declaration [Feb. 15]

Using his emergency power, the president wants to transfer money from several accounts, including housing for veterans, to expand construction of the wall. While the issue is currently being litigated in the courts, Welch said it's important for Congress to address the president's actions — which he considers unconstitutional.

"I think it's very important for Congress to assert its independent responsibility as a separate branch of government,” said Welch. “I mean to put this in very local terms, it would be as though the voters at town meeting said they wanted to spend $50,000 on the recreation department and then the town manager said, 'Well I've got a different idea. We'll spent it on roads.'"

Questioning Michael Cohen

On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will hear testimony from Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen about allegations of financial wrongdoing and possible cases of obstruction of justice by the president.

Welch, a longtime member of this committeee, said he has questions for Cohen about the president's business dealings with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

"These go to the heart of whether there is a conflict of interest here that's partly behind President Trump doing something that his party has widely renounced, and that is being cozy with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Welch said.  

Then on Thursday, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Welch will also participate in a closed session with Cohen.

Background Checks

The House this week will also consider legislation calling for mandatory background checks for all gun sales. It's an issue that didn't come to the floor when Republicans had a majority in the House, but it's become a key part of the Democrats' gun safety agenda.

Welch supports the bill.

"In some cases the background check is going to make certain that a person who shouldn't have a gun doesn't get a gun,” Welch said. “Now, there's not an assertion that a gun safety and background check is going to solve all problems, but it's a necessary step.”    

Welch acknowledged that neither the gun bill nor the legislation that disapproves of the president's emergency authority have much of a chance of passing in the Republican controlled Senate, but he hopes that both bills will receive a fair hearing and that GOP leaders will schedule a floor vote on them in the coming weeks.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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