Rep. Katko: Sit on the Sidelines or Do Something About It

July 19, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Representative John Katko, R-N.Y., makes no bones about how he feels about things.

Still as straight and direct as he was during his years as a prosecutor of organized crime in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Syracuse, Katko, who has represented New York’s 24th congressional district since 2015, quickly admits he never thought he would serve in Congress, “never thought I’d be in politics.”

“I spent most of my adult life as a federal organized crime prosecutor, literally traveling the world going after drug cartels, porn traffickers, organized crime, political corruption, you name it,” he told attendees at this week’s “Legislating from the Middle,” a forum sponsored by Center Forward and hosted by The Well News at the Newseum’s Knight Center.

Every time Katko opened a significant case, he’d form a task force comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement personnel, and in each instance, he’d find himself frustrated by his new colleagues’ “different priorities and different goals.”

“Then one day, two colleagues of mine said, ‘you can either sit on the sidelines and continue to gripe about it, or you can do something about it,” he said.

Katko launched his first congressional campaign wanting to make a difference specifically by showing that people of different philosophical persuasions could rack up real achievements together and that bipartisanship can work.

“I made a commitment to do that,” the representative said, as his co-panelists, Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., looked on.

“As a result, I’ve never filed a bill without a Democratic cosponsor, and it has really helped. I’m told I had more bills passed in my first term than any freshman congressman in the history of our country,” Katko said.

“And it’s not because I’m some great legislator, it’s just that bipartisanship can work,” he said.

Katko said his personal philosophy in this regard was informed by the relationship of House Speaker Tip O’Neil and President Ronald Reagan.

“They were diametrically opposed in terms of political ideology, and yet they managed to get things done [in their day] that if we could get them done [today] we would be heroes — Social Security reform, immigration reform, tax reform and tax cuts,” he said. “And they did that together, a conservative Republican and a liberal speaker of the House. We need to get back to that.”

Not that anyone should expect being a centrist and willing to reach across the aisle is easy. Katko said the days he knows he’s doing well are those when both the far left and far right in the House is angry with him.

“I constantly have to walk a tightrope, but it’s worth it,” the representative said. “People are so sick and tired of turning on the TV and see the nonsense — and you only need to look at the polls for confirmation.

“The economy is good, unemployment is low, wages are getting higher … and yet people … don’t feel good about the country. They don’t feel good about themselves because they don’t feel good about the country. And that is really sad and this has got to change.”

Katko told forum attendees that he believes it’s up to centrist Republicans and Democrats to work together to address the situation. “If we don’t, it’s not going to happen because the far left and far right do not bend. And that’s a zero sum game.”

“I want to get to the point where compromise is cool,” he continued. “Today, everything is about messaging bills [that have no chance of enactment] and this doesn’t get us anywhere. We have a lot of big things we need to deal with, starting with infrastructure and healthcare and other issues that we’re just sweeping under the rug.”

“We take bullets every day and get the crap kicked out of us every day,” Katko said of himself and his fellow moderates. “And yet for some strange reason I find it’s worth it. I take pride in it. The bottom line is bipartisanship is just the right thing to do.” 

Bipartisan

Feeling Bipartisan Heat, Trump Backs Off Foreign Aid Cuts Political News
Feeling Bipartisan Heat, Trump Backs Off Foreign Aid Cuts

WASHINGTON — Succumbing to bipartisan pressure, the White House abandoned plans Thursday to cut billions of dollars from the State Department budget for foreign aid, several officials said. A proposal to freeze as much as $4 billion in aid approved by Congress was under consideration by... Read More

Blue Dogs Recap Accomplishments Of 116th Congress (So Far)
Blue Dogs Recap Accomplishments Of 116th Congress (So Far)
August 9, 2019
by TWN Staff

For 24 years, the Blue Dog Coalition has led the way bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats to develop common-sense solutions for serious problems Americans face in their daily lives. Over the course of the coalition’s history, the members may have changed, but the organization... Read More

Cunningham Takes On McConnell, Fights Offshore Drilling In Eventful District Visit
Cunningham Takes On McConnell, Fights Offshore Drilling In Eventful District Visit
August 9, 2019
by Dan McCue

Freshman Representative Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., certainly didn't expect to be taking on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., let alone talking about gun control, when he returned to his South Carolina district for the August recess, but after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton,... Read More

Lawmakers Propose ‘Red Flag’ Laws After Mass Shootings: Effect Remains Unclear Guns
Lawmakers Propose ‘Red Flag’ Laws After Mass Shootings: Effect Remains Unclear
August 9, 2019
by HJ Mai

Lawmakers are facing increased public pressure to take action and stop the gun violence after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio killed 31 people over the past weekend.  President Donald Trump and congressional members of both parties appear eager to take up the issues this... Read More

New Dems Climate Change Task Force Releases Principles for U.S. Climate Policy Climate
New Dems Climate Change Task Force Releases Principles for U.S. Climate Policy
August 7, 2019
by Dan McCue

The New Democrat Coalition on Wednesday released a statement of principles aimed at reasserting the United States’ role as a global leader in addressing climate change. A statement outlining the principles says they are intended to combat climate change “with the seriousness and urgency this crisis... Read More

Houlahan, Balderson Lead Bipartisan Effort to Bolster Grants To Spark Small Business Innovation Business
Houlahan, Balderson Lead Bipartisan Effort to Bolster Grants To Spark Small Business Innovation
August 6, 2019
by Sean Trambley

Freshman Representative Chrissy Houlahan, D-Penn., was joined by Representative Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, to introduce bipartisan and bicameral legislation to enhance commercialization services for federally funded research and development.  Introduced in the House on July 18, H.R. 3839, the Research Advancing to Market Production (RAMP) for Innovators... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top