Preview: Rep. John Katko on the Campbell Conversations

Apr 7, 2017

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) joined Grant Reeher for this week's edition of the Campbell Conversations. In this preview, they talked about whether Katko has seen any political retribution for not backing President Donald Trump during the campaign, how House Speaker Paul Ryan is doing, and Katko's own political future. 

Note: Full audio and transcript of the interview will be available Saturday, April 8 at 6:00 a.m.

GR: When I spoke to you last time we talked about the possibility that you might face some payback from the White House for publicly rejecting Trump as a candidate. And I wanted to know have you had any experience of that so far in the dealings with him or with the White House?

JK: No they haven't been calling me to come down there for lunch, but I didn't expect that to happen either. But you know I think that quite frankly, this guy just wants to get things done. And so he was really taken aback when he invited people down to the White House for example during the Affordable Care Act negotiations. And someone told him to his face they weren't going to support it. They invited my group down, the Tuesday Group, and I didn't think there was any reason for me to go and tell the wizard himself that I was going to vote against it so I didn't go. That was prudent for me to do so I think. But the bottom line is, I haven't seen any major repercussions of it. And moving forward I think he's all about trying to get things done and we should try and get things done. And I want to do the best I can to try and get things done and serve my constituents the best I can.

GR: And how do you think your speaker Paul Ryan is doing trying to ride this three-headed horse of the right wing of his caucus, the president on his own agenda?

JK: I think it's like trying to herd cats that drink a lot of caffeine. Everybody's running every which way and he's trying to herd them all together and I think he's having...it's a tough time. But you know things can be done and I think everyone's doing a little self-examination right now. And quite frankly, I think that the Freedom Caucus is really kind of been the far right wing of the party. They're really more about saying NO than they are about coming up with ideas. And I think that even they are doing some self-examination. So I'm cautiously optimistic going forward that perhaps everyone is going to try and do what's best for the country and I hope they do. I hope their heart's in the right place. And but there's no question about he's got a very tough job. Very tough job.

GR: Well let's let's imagine that they keep saying, as you say they keep saying, 'no' and you know their view and their strategy is that there is some political integrity in that and also some kind of political payoff I think down the line. How do you see that playing out for Congress and how it functions but also what happens in the midterm elections?

JK: Well I think all that's in play right now. There is no question about it that there is a backlash. We've also seen from the Democratic side, to be fair. Is there some dysfunction in the Republican side? For sure. But I think the Democrats have got to decide to do something more than just simply say no to everything, and be obstructionists in hopes that will get things moving. That's part of the problem in Washington and I'm part of a group called No Labels and it's called the problem solvers. A group of serious Democrats and serious Republicans who want to try to reach across the aisle to get things done and lead by example. And we're becoming more and more strong as a coalition and we're actually going to start having some more structure to what we're doing. And that coupled with the Tuesday Group and I think we're really trying to set an example that, you have to, if you want to get anything done in Washington, you have to work with the other side at least to some extent, try and get some people on the other side to buy into what you're doing. I've done that since I got here. That's why I've had more bills passed than anybody in Congress. I've had 18 pass now, I had three more this term. So every single one of them I have Democratic co-sponsors on and I want to continue to do that. And that type of idea has to break through, because both parties right now are dominated by the far left and the far right. And that's why we have such gridlock and we got to break through it.

GR: So another political question, but this one is about you and your district and your future. If there is a political mid-term storm coming, some people have suggested there is one coming. It does seem like you've done a pretty good job boarding up the windows, to extend the metaphor. Do you politically, do you worry more about a challenge from the left. Or do you worry about the right?

JK: Honestly, I don't care. Because, and I don't mean to be flippant about it. But the bottom line is I'm always going have a challenge in a district like this, and quite frankly, if I had one wish and if I could wave a wand and do one thing I'd make every district in the country between a D-5 and an R-5, meaning anywhere on the spectrum between 5 percent more Republican and 5 percent more Democrat. If you had that, you would have everybody forcing to make tough decisions like I do every single vote. If you do that I think you did much easier to build consensus. I've been told since I've been in office that 'oh my god you're never going to beat the incumbent' and we beat him by 20 points. And they said 'oh my god you're a top target in the country you're going to get crushed' and we won by 22. So I'm not saying I'm going to win. I'm not saying I'm going to lose. I'm just saying that I'm going to do what's best for my constituents no matter what and whatever happens happens. I'll accept it.