Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Katko to look back on four-terms representing Central New York in Congress

A man in a suit and tie sits behind a dais with a nameplate that reads "Mr. Katko, Chairman" and speaks into a microphone at a government meeting.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Wikimedia Commons
A nameplate recognizes U.S. Rep. John Katko as the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Protective Security.

U.S. Congressmember John Katko, who represented the former 24th district, is marking his four terms in office during a farewell event at Syracuse University on Monday.

Katko, a Republican and ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, announced in January he would not seek re-election. The wide open race for his district, which was redrawn as the 22nd due to restricting, was won by another Republican, Brandon Williams, earlier this month.

But Katko has always tried to position himself as a moderate, which often frustrated people on both sides of the political spectrum. He angered his own party and gained national attention for the narrow passage of his bill in May 2021, calling for the creation of a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier that year.

“Sufficient scope and flexibility to investigate targeted violence and domestic terrorism relevant to the Jan. 6 attack—It will be up to the commission to decide how far they want to go with that imprimatur," Katko said at the time.   

Katko, a former federal prosecutor, told his fellow House members in that floor speech that criminal investigations alone wouldn’t provide the expertise and recommendations that a commission could. In the end, the bipartisan commission was scrapped in favor of the one led mainly by Democrats.

Katko also had an evolving view of then-President Trump. He expressed support for his first presidential bid, and opposed impeaching Trump in late 2019. But just more than a year later, he did to impeach Trump and then didn’t support the real estate mogul for a second term.

Also a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Katko was able to steer clear of the harsh partisan climate and collaborate with members of both parties. That likely led to one of the most significant pieces of legislation in generations for Central New York: The CHIPS and Science Act, which ultimately helped convince Micron to invest $100 billion dollars at White Pine Commerce Park in Onondaga County's Town of Clay.

Katko in August made a strong push to bring semiconductor production to the U.S.

“Taiwan has about 90% of the high-end chip manufacturing in the world right now, and if China decides to go into Taiwan tomorrow, we won't be building missiles, we won't be building high-tech machinery, we won't be having our cars to drive around,” Katko said,

Katko convinced 24 of his House Republican colleagues to vote yes on the $52 billion legislation, which was signed by President Joe Biden on Aug. 9.

But Katko didn't hold back his criticism of the Democratic president. In the fall of 2021, Katko said the botched abrupt and sweeping pullout of troops from Afghanistan had already set the country back.

"The terrorists are already there. We've already seen it because they've launched terror attacks on our forces and killed our people in the last week. They're going to metastasize again, just like they did the last time the Taliban had control for 20 years. Let's not forget: That's why we went over there because that was the root cause of 9/11," Katko said.

Republicans in the new House majority have said the Afghanistan withdrawal will be one of their many investigations into the Biden administration.

Katko also championed recognition and preservation of Central New York’s rich legacy of abolition. He co-sponsored the bipartisan, bicameral Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act. The Department of Treasury will mint and issue five dollar gold coins, one dollar silver coins, and half dollar clad coins.

"Specifically, I am pleased that the coins issued under this legislation, bearing Harriet Tubman's likeness and symbolizing her legacy, will directly benefit preservation and education efforts at the Tubman home in Auburn for years to come," Katko said.

Katko told his colleagues on the House floor this summer that the vote represents one of the most significant steps forward in strengthening federal recognition of the Harriet Tubman home in Auburn since its designation as a national park in 2017.

The 22nd Congressional District covers Onondaga, Oneida, Madison counties and part of Oswego County.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at