Tuesday marked a historic day in Vermont politics with the passing of the torch to Vermont’s newest members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Peter Welch was sworn in to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy, who was on hand to help his longtime friend take the oath and become Vermont’s first new senator in 16 years.  

“Quite humbling to have Senator Leahy with me, but now quite excited to be in a position to do work on behalf of Vermont in the United States Senate,” Welch said. “And he’s doing everything he possibly can to give me a running start.” 

Taking the oath of office was a sentimental moment for Welch, who served on Leahy’s first campaign in 1974. With Leahy’s 48-year career in the Senate at an end, Welch said replacing someone with nearly five decades of experience and relationships won’t be easy. 

“There is no other Senator Leahy,” he said. “But he has put things in place where there is a strong foundation. I’m going to be working with Senator Sanders to do everything we can to maintain the legacy we’ve been given by Patrick.” 

Becca Balint was elected to Welch’s old House seat in November to become Vermont’s first female and openly LGBTQ member of Congress. She’ll have to wait a little longer to be sworn in, however, as House Republicans failed to reach consensus on who should serve as speaker for the new majority. 

Balint, a former Vermont senate pro tem sent out a tweet thanking her family and Vermonters that have helped her along her journey. “It’s a surreal feeling to see my name in the halls of congress,” she tweeted, adding that she is ready to get to work. 

Balint and Welch are continuing to preach bipartisanship. 

“Good things happen when you find ways to work together, and I think all of us have to remember that,” Welch said. 

Welch affordable housing and the cost of living in Vermont are high on his list of priorities heading into 2023. Balint said she’s focused on the housing, as well, along with the mental health crisis. 

Both emphasize that working across the aisle will be essential to making it happen, something they say Americans are pleading for. 

“We’ve had a citizen embrace of the restoration and the maintaining of our democracy,” Welch said. “That’s a thrilling decision that the American people made.” 

Welch said he has not received his committee assignments yet and would not say which ones he was gunning for. Balint won’t be appointed to any committee until House Republicans make a final decision on a speaker.