Rep. John Katko reflects on political career, importance of bipartisanship

Rep. Katko reflects on political career, bipartisanship

Speaking with SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Gretchen Ritter, the Congressman attributes his success in Washington to working across the aisle.
Published: April 15, 2022
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SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Gretchen Ritter interviews U.S. Rep. John Katko at Eggers Hall on Thursday.

At a moderated event on Thursday in Eggers Hall, U.S. Representative John Katko, a Republican for the 24th district of New York, emphasized how he’s prioritized bipartisanship since the start of his political career.

In his conversation with Vice Chancellor and Provost, and Chief Academic Officer Gretchen Ritter, Katko said his success in passing bills can be attributed to his strong commitment to bipartisanship.

Katko, a Syracuse alumnus, entered the realm of politics when he was 52. After hearing former President Barack Obama say that the manufacturing industry was gone, Katko knew he didn’t subscribe to those thoughts and he should be part of the process.

Katko has served in Congress for four terms and represents Onondaga, Cayuga and Wayne Counties and the western portion of Oswego County. A former prosecutor, he has set out to understand the other side’s opinion to gain bipartisan support.

“I refused to introduce a bill without a Democrat on it,” Katko said. “I always try to look at the other side and understand that I’m not always right.”

Katko said he never votes to save his job but instead votes with his conscience.

As the head of the moderate wing of the Republican Party and part of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Katko advocates for moderation in his party.

“If the left is pissed off at you and the right is pissed off at you, you’re doing a good job,” Katko said.

According to Katko, his efforts at bipartisanship have led to conflicts among his party. Katko said when he co-signed the infrastructure bill, his party tried to remove him as head of the Homeland Security Committee.

His takeaway from his four terms in office and his advice to young people is to vote on what’s right, not to “save your skin.”

Katko was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump supporters stormed the U.S Capitol Building.

In the aftermath of the Capitol attack, Katko also helped create an independent commission to investigate what happened.

“I was the first Republican to announce that I was gonna vote that way,” Katko said.“I walked out on the floor and thought, well, this could be it for me, but it’s still worth it. I didn’t regret it then and I don’t regret it now.”

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An audience gathered in Eggers Hall to hear U.S. Rep. John Katko talk on Thursday.

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John Katko points to the audience during his talk Thursday at SU.

Katko said he aims to address the needs of all his constituents. He said his Syracuse and Washington, D.C. offices are in constant communication to ensure that their voices are heard. He understands that the majority of his constituents are not from his party, but has learned the importance of listening and having “constructive conversations.”

This will be Katko’s final term as a representative. When he first started, he said he would never go over 12 years because he is a “firm believer in term limits.”

After eight years of serving in the House of Representatives, Katko reflects on what has led him to be an effective legislator.

“In Congress … it’s not about ego,” Katko said. “It’s got to be about being able to articulate your views — whatever your values are — and understanding the other side.”