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CNY Reps. Katko and Brindisi Share Common Goals: End the Shutdown, Strengthen Southern Border

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The partial government shutdown is on the verge of becoming the longest ever, and GOP Congressmember John Katko says it didn’t have to happen.  He has voted with Democrats on five bills in the last week to fund the government…but NOT $5.7 billion for the border wall. 

"I think it's ridiculous.  I was proud to break with my part to try and re-open the government because it's the right thing to do."

Katko says a shutdown is not the way to find compromise.

"I pledged since I first started running for Congress in 2014 that I would never vote for a government shutdown or for something that continues a shutdown, and I'm keeping that promise.  Holding the government hostage until you get your way on either side is never the productive thing to do, and it's not something we should do now.   Both sides are guilty.   There are no clean hands in this process."

Katko says this all-or-nothing approach is clearly not working.  He suggests House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pick an issue important to democrats, like DACA, and use it as a bargaining chip with the President.

"That was their biggest issue last term.   We had protests all over Capitol Hill.  Why not just say to Trump give DACA kids status and a path to citizenship, and we can end this thing tomorrow.  We'll give you your money, you'll get something, we'll get something, and we'll all be happy."

He says political rivals President Reagan and Tip O'Neill managed to find common ground and reach significant agreements on immigration, social security, and taxes in their day.  Katko wants to be clear that his votes against wall funding don’t mean he’s soft on border security.

"I was a federal organized crime prosecutor on the border.  I saw firsthand in El Paso, Texas how much of a sieve the border was in the mid '90's, and still is.  There's no doubt we need to do more."

Katko finds it ironic that Pelosi, Schumer, and Senators Clinton and Obama ALL previously voted to build a barrier along 700 miles of the border. 


The enthusiasm of one of the newest Congressional Democrats from Utica is being overshadowed by the partial government shutdown.  Anthony Brindisi is ready to get to a solution from either party or a bipartisan measure and has been having productive meetings with lawmakers from both sides.  He doesn’t agree with President Trump’s border wall proposal, but he does agree that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico Border has reached a dangerous level.

Some element of a physical barrier, better technology, more border agents are all things I support.  But we also have to look at immigration reform, reform of the asylum process to clear the backlog.” 

He agrees with experts that walls alone aren’t a solution; however, he DOES favor structural enhancements and looking into the humanitarian element at stake.  The Congressmember adds that U.S. diplomacy could prevent high numbers of immigrants from desiring to escape awful conditions, if problems are addressed in advance.

"We should be working with those countries to improve conditions so people aren't forced to flee and end up on our doorstep.  But we also have to have strong borders, I agree with that.  We also have to use our influece to make sure people in these countries have a chance, so they're not forced to want to pick up and make a very dangerous journey to get to this country.” 

The local impacts of the partial government shutdown is something that Brindisi says he is hearing directly from his constituents about.

"Not being able to get certain medications, federal workers who are not getting paid, food assisance programs, small business, agriculture, loan programs, all kinds of things that the federal government is involved in that are on hold right now.” 

The Congressmember says the longer the shutdown lasts, the more it will have a devastating impact on both the U.S. economy as a whole… and have real world implications in Upstate New York.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.
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