Welch, who says he is 5’8″, joked: “I couldn’t find a hoodie that was big enough for him. And he couldn’t find a hoodie that was small enough for me.”
Their friendship later deepened when Fetterman sought inpatient treatment for depression after a stroke he suffered during his campaign. Welch visited Fetterman in the hospital to keep track of his colleague’s recovery. And Fetterman made clear that the admiration is mutual.
“He’s the nicest dude in D.C.,” Fetterman said of Welch in an interview in the Pennsylvanian’s office, conducted with the help of a tablet given the auditory processing challenges of his stroke recovery.
Welch “is like a unicorn,” Fetterman added. “If somebody has a problem with Peter, you’re the problem, not Peter.”
Their unique bond eventually became bipartisan, when Welch invited 53-year-old Fetterman and 41-year-old Britt to his Washington home for dinner after the Senate finished its bruising debt-limit debate. Welch cooked his wife’s salmon recipe, and Britt walked away with two new allies.
Before Welch became a member of the House, he served in the Vermont Senate since 1980, becoming the first Democratic Senate president in the history of the rural state — which has its own odd microcosm of politics, with both hyperliberal Sanders and Republican Gov. Phil Scott elected statewide. While the “career politician” label has been lobbed Welch’s way, including from his opponents for the Senate seat, he’s shrugged off the attack, responding he’s always served Vermonters’ interest.
Inhabiting the role of across-the-aisle bond-builder comes naturally to Welch, despite the deep-blue profile of his state. During his eight terms in the House, he also acquired a reputation for being able to work with lawmakers of different backgrounds, though Welch acknowledged that his views of the House changed significantly for the worse after Jan. 6, 2021.
“It was really disappointing” to see the Capitol riot fail to dissuade more than 140 Republicans from voting not to certify President Joe Biden’s victory, Welch said. He called that pre-dawn vote in the House: “the saddest moment of my congressional career.”