U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and his wife, Public Utility Commissioner Margaret Cheney, at an election night party at the Hilton Burlington
Vermont's sole delegate to the U.S. House says he hasn't decided who should serve as its next speaker.
In an interview Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would not say whether Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should reclaim the speaker's gavel. Welch said he had not committed, publicly or privately, to back Pelosi or any potential challenger.
"At this point, what I want is to make certain we get some reforms [to the legislative process] that'll apply whoever is speaker," he said.
Pelosi, the only declared candidate, served as speaker during Welch's first two terms in office, from 2007 through 2010. Now that Democrats are poised to control the House for the first time in eight years, she is hoping to return to the post.
Though no challengers have yet emerged, roughly 20 Democrats — including at least eight newly elected reps — have indicated they would oppose Pelosi. The Democratic caucus is scheduled to take a secret vote the week after Thanksgiving on who to nominate for speaker, and the full House will formally elect a speaker by majority vote in January.
Though Welch has previously backed Pelosi, he has said for months that he is committed this time to process changes, not a particular candidate.
"The question I've been asking is not who is our leader but how we're led," he said. "The big problem we have in Congress — and it's on both sides — is that too much power has landed in the speaker's office. We've gotta decentralize that power and have committees take much more responsibility if we're going to start getting constructive legislation passed."
Under outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan's (D-Wis.) leadership, Welch noted, Democratic legislators had few opportunities to offer amendments to legislation. Some high-profile bills, including successful tax legislation and an unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, were written in secret, not in committee.
"That stuff's gotta end. It's destroying the effectiveness of Congress," Welch said. "That's much more important than who leads us, and many of us have been saying that to Pelosi."
Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch’s communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.