Congressional Doings Downtown | Freyne Land

Congressional Doings Downtown

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First we bump into United States Senator-elect Bernie Sanders at Uncommon Grounds on Church Street. Vermont's newest U.S. senator is upbeat and excited about the new role he'll be playing in the 'upper' body. In fact, he's in such a good mood, he and I go for a walk around downtown Burlington for 20 minutes and chew the fat.

One thing with Ol' Bernardo is that if you're with him, get ready for the public reaction. Naturally, folks recognize him. Old people, young people, it doesn't matter. Many want to shake his hand, give him a hug or at least say "hello," or "I voted for you!" or just a "Thank you, Bernie."

What's the Senator-elect up to these days?

"We're working on a number of issues," he tells us. "We're working on healthcare. We're working on environmental issues. We're working on energy issues. We're working on veterans issues."

The last couple weeks, the Senator-elect said he's been meeting with national leaders down in D.C. and this week he's meeting with their local Vermont counterparts. Tuesday evening, he said, almost 400 people came to a town meeting he held in South Burlington and he's holding them around the state.

And, said Sanders, it looks like he's the only senator with seats on both the energy and environmental committees. Full names: Energy and Natural Resources and Environment and Public Works.

"That puts us in a very good place in terms of global warming and sustainable energy," said Ol' Bernardo.

Cool.

Then this just in: Congressman-elect Peter Welch has just been appointed to the powerful House Rules Committee. Amazing for a freshman!

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Most House committees are packed with 40 or 50 or 60 members. The Rules Committee has only 13: nine Democrats and four Republicans.

Welch's Chief-of-Staff Bob Rogan (at right) told "Freyne Land" the Rules Committee is the "traffic cop" for House legislation.

"Every committee that wants to move legislation to the Floor has to go through the front door of the Rules Committee and get what is called a 'rule' to get to the Floor," said Bob.

But how did a freshman get such an important seat?

His experience as president pro tem of the Vermont Senate sure didn't hurt.

"Peter is viewed as somebody who has an extraordinary amount of experience," said Rogan. "He's got gravitas in the legislative arena. He knows the difficulty of Speaker Pelosi's job and fundamentally he gets it!"

Not bad, eh?

And what's our other congressman got for work?

Oh, right, Sen. Patrick Leahy will be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee come January.

Cool.

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