Congressman John Katko gives farewell address, reflects on political career

Congressman John Katko gives farewell address, reflects on political career

The four-term Republican U.S. Representative discussed the importance of bipartisanship, as well as his views on the current state of democracy.
Published: November 29, 2022 | Updated: November 30th, 2022 at 3:09 pm
John Katko sits across from Grant Reeher on a stage, both of them facing off stage. A large blue screen behind them reads,
Congressman John Katko spoke with Professor Grant Reeher about his career before taking audience questions.

On Monday, November 28, Republican Congressman John Katko gave his farewell address at Syracuse University’s National Veterans Resource Center. The event, which was a part of the Maxwell School’s State of Democracy Lecture Series, saw Katko reflect on his time as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 24th Congressional District.

The conversation was moderated by Grant Reeher, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute. It was also attended by Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and his father Jim, the longest-serving member of Congress. After being introduced by Reeher, Katko opened with a brief address that thanked his supporters, staffers, and his wife, Robin, who he commended for staying strong in the face of difficult threats they faced during Katko’s time in office.

Katko also said that, despite the turmoil and strong partisan divides in the country right now, people should “have faith,” citing his hopes for future political leaders that could get the country back on a more civil track.

During their conversation, Katko and Reeher discussed the various high and low points of Katko’s time in Congress, including his work on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and expanding mental health resources in upstate New York. One of the major talking points throughout the evening was on Katko’s rejection of partisanship and his willingness to work with both Democrats and Republicans in order to achieve progress. He has been rated as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress during his tenure, and he’s credited this to his commitment to hearing different viewpoints and the knowledge that “you’re not always right with your political views.”

Katko also talked about January 6th, citing it as, “one of the darkest times I’ve had in politics,” and how he was disturbed when learning that some of his colleagues were unsure about voting to certify the election, as it could hurt them politically.

“People in Congress act accordingly to save their jobs half the time, and that’s a problem,” Katko said. He later added that he believes in term limits for Congress—12 years in the House and two Senate terms—as he thinks “people would be less likely to vote to save themselves” if there was a limit on their time in office.

Katko also addressed his choice to impeach former President Trump on his second impeachment vote, a decision he made in the wake of the January 6th riots at the Capitol. It was a move that alienated him from many of his Republican colleagues, and while he was confident in his choice, he knew the fallout that would come from this choice.

Despite this, Katko was pleased with his record and accomplishments, and said that he wouldn’t change anything about it. As for his future and the future of the nation’s democracy, Katko advised his successor, Republican Brandon Williams, to “listen to everybody on both sides of the aisle.” He also hoped that the partisan divide would narrow and that nation would come together once again. Katko recalled losing friends when he entered Congress due to differing political affiliation, and he thinks it represents the negative hyperpartisanship our country should avoid.

“People in this country have got to understand that’s okay and it’s not acceptable to have a scorched earth view of politics,” he said.