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Power Breakfast: A Post-vote, Pre-recess Debriefing

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Like most every member of Congress, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has left Washington. He's returned to his largely democratic district in Vermont, to begin the process of explaining to the folks back home, the 'developments' of the last few days and weeks.

"The good news here is the government is continuing and we have a government through September," says Welch. "So that clears the decks."

But the brinkmanship was a harbinger of things to come -- like the debt limit debate.

"You know, the debt limit is fundamentally about a moral obligation to pay our bills," says Welch. "And there are many here who want to leverage it as a way of extracting their political point of view. And if we play chicken with the debt limit -- a tough political vote but a necessary thing to do -- then we're playing Russian roulette with the economy. It's very dangerous what lies ahead."

The debt limit is one challenge; the 2012 budget is another. And by Welch's own account, Democrats haven't exactly been winning the public relations game.

"I think one of the problems we've had is that of our defense has been defense of programs, and that's kind of abstract to most people, and they have skepticism that government programs make much difference."

When it comes to compromise, he says both parties could do a whole lot better.

"Compromise isn't about compromising principles, it's about doing the obvious, and that's taking a look at the entire federal structure -- all the programs, all the entitlements, the tax system -- and understanding that each one of these can be a tool that can be used effectively to get to a sustainable budget. We can do it."

So what's everybody waiting for? Welch can't speak for Republicans. But for his own party, he says, "Democrats have to be willing to work with Republicans on looking at some of the programs that have been longtime stalwarts of the Democratic Party."

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