OTR Interviews

Congressman Welch: We in Congress have to look in the mirror

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch takes on critics of president's address


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 24, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: First we have Congressman Peter Welch from Vermont. He joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. PETER WELCH, D-VT.: Good evening.

VAN SUSTEREN: The co-chair of the president's commission on debt and deficits, Alan Simpson, was very critical tonight of the president's speech for failure to take on debt and deficits in his speech. In fact he said "Where is the guts?" on our companion network. Are you satisfied the president addressed those issue, or are those issues simply not worthy of the State of the Union?

WELCH: They definitely are worthy of the State of the Union, and I think the president signaled a willingness to restart those talks. I think what the president did was two fundamental points tonight. One, he challenged Congress to stop being the dysfunctional institution that it's been. That really is something that can be pointing a finger of responsible towards Republicans and Democrats. The fact is whatever the problems that we have to face, we're not going to make progress unless we do it together.

And then secondly I think he identified what America knows is big challenge, and that's reviving an economy that works for the middle-class.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think anyone sitting at home that's part of that 8.5 percent national unemployment listening to the State of the Union would feel inspired and hopeful?

WELCH: You know, I think when you are unemployed, especially for a long time, it's hard to inspired or hopeful almost about anything. So it's tough, especially when there has been such gridlock here in D.C. You know, when we are fighting and can't get anything done, whether you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, no one wins. I think one of the challenges the president imposed on us in Congress is to not to use the excuse that it's an election year as a rationalization not to get some things done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, hasn't Congress been virtually dysfunctional for decades? We had a president who said he was a uniter and break through the gridlock, not successfully. Now we have another president who says that he is special and he has some sort of magic to get through the gridlock. He hasn't. Are we really looking or is there a leader that could get Congress to actually really work together, to lead?

WELCH: I think those in Congress to have to look in the mirror. We have an independent responsibility. The role of big money is a factor. The perpetual campaign is a factor. But each of us have a rough and tumble campaign, but once we get here we have a responsibility to try to cooperate to get things done, not just to have a perpetual campaign machine going.

VAN SUSTEREN: Gabrielle Giffords was there. She is going to retire tomorrow. I suppose that's very important to for all members of Congress, wasn't it?

WELCH: It's astonishing. She is inspiring to all of us and is a kind of unifying figure. In fact Gabby is the kind of person who when she served in Congress found common ground with Republicans and Democrats, she focused on getting the job done. She's an inspiration.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

WELCH: Thank you.