Rep. Peter Welch is taking two approaches to the new session of Congress: He says he's willing to work with President-elect Donald Trump and Republican leaders on policies of common interest, but will oppose any effort he sees as an attack on civil rights.
Welch describes the 2017 Congressional session as the "great unknown" because the full agenda of the Trump administration has yet to be unveiled.
A number of Congressional Democrats have vowed to fight all of the initiatives of the new president. Welch is not taking that position across the board but he's says he'll work to protect the rights of individuals or groups if he feels they're being threatened by the new administration.
Representatives of minorities and the LGBTQ community have expressed concerns about how a Trump presidency might affect them.
"Job one is to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans," Welch says, "and I will be outspoken and vigilant in the Vermont way to make certain that not a single person's civil rights are compromised by a single action."
Welch has a reputation of working with GOP members on issues of common interest. He says he intends to continue with this approach.
"If there's the ability to work on economic issues and to find common ground," says Welch, "I'm going to continue to reach out to my Republican colleagues, many of whom want to get things done."
And Welch says there may be times where he'll support initiatives of the Trump administration that are being opposed by Republican leaders.
"He's breaking some eggs and there's some potential to work with him," Welch says. "For instance, he's talking about a big infrastructure program. I support that. It's obvious the details are critical. He's talking about price negotiations for prescription drugs — something I've been working on for 10 years."
Welch says he'll continue in his role as deputy whip in the Democratic caucus in the upcoming session.