Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) has only been in Congress for a year, but says he’s seen a lot of changes in what many Americans view as a dysfunctional arm of government.
After Katko took his oath of office last January, and started learning the ropes in Washington, he says the atmosphere was highly politically charged. A push to defund the Department of Homeland Security over immigration policy was just one of those very partisan issues that lawmakers faced.
"It was divisive. And some of those early votes, I was pulling my hair out, what the heck’s going on here.”
But Katko says the tenor and tone of the House of Representatives changed later in the year, after Speaker John Boehner resigned, and was replaced by Paul Ryan. And that is due in part to the differences in the way the two leaders work. Katko says Boehner did things more behind the scenes.
"Ryan, in contrast, everything is upfront. You have exponentially more votes now that we take on every bill than we ever did before, because people can offer amendments. It’s called open rule, or regular order, they call it. So there’s a lot more participation by all factions within the Republican party, so no one can complain that they’re not being heard,” said Katko.
The Syracuse-area Republican believes that’s one reason the House was able to accomplish so many things in the last month of the session, including passage of a transportation bill and a budget.
Katko says the leadership change has created an atmosphere were more people felt included in the decision making process. And he expects that to continue in January.
"I think from a strictly Republican standpoint it’s going to be a different year. We’re going to start the appropriations process very early this year, and we’re going to keep going with it.”
Katko says the one wild card that could throw the House back into partisan turmoil, is the fact that it’s a presidential and congressional election year.