How to Be a Successful
Freshman in Congress

John Katko has passed more bills than any other first-term congressman, credits bipartisan approach

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Congress is highly unpopular with the American people, largely because Americans think it is too divided to get anything done. Rep. John Katko (R., N.Y.) set out to change that when he entered Congress in 2014.

Katko has demonstrated a knack for getting things done in his first term representing upstate New York in the House of Representatives. In his first year, he introduced more bills than any other freshman congressman and got more bills passed into law. Thirteen of his sponsored bills passed in the House, more than any other freshman.

Katko attributes his success to the tenacity that he brings from his 20-year career as a federal organized crime prosecutor and his strategy of getting Democrats onboard early in the process.

"Tenacity and bipartisanship are the two biggest things," Katko told the Free Beacon.

"I was a federal organized crime prosecutor for 20 years so tenacity is in my DNA, but part of it is strategic," he said. "We try to really make sure that from the beginning there is at least some modicum of bipartisan support. If you do that, I think it is easier to collect signatures on both sides of the aisle."

"For every one of the bills I introduced that got passed in the House, the very first person I have on the bill is a Democrat," he said. "It’s not always easy."

Katko has it especially tough because he holds one of the most politically vulnerable seats of any Republicans in Congress—Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York’s 24th district, which President Barack Obama carried by double digits in 2008 and 2012.

"Democrats have every incentive not to work" with him, Katko said, but he has managed to break through those barriers and build relationships.

"I work the floor pretty hard when I’m out there," Katko said. "Even though I’m a top target for Democrats I have managed to break through that gridlock and get things done."

"On the one hand they want to hammer me, and on the other hand they realize I’m doing good work and they want to work with me," he said. "I’ve had people on the other side tell me, ‘We really like you, we really like working with you, but to steal a line from the Godfather, business is business.’"

Katko said he plans to remain committed to his bipartisan strategy despite being hammered by a wave of Democratic attacks in his home district.

"Quite frankly, I could have sour grapes over the fact that they are beating the crap out of me back in my home district trying to knock me out, but you got to have thick skin and brush that stuff off," Katko said. "If I win reelection I am going to go right back to being the same bipartisan person I was."

So far, it looks like constituents on both sides of the political spectrum are noticing his work.

A Time Warner Cable/Siena College poll released on Tuesday showed Katko up by 19 points over Democrat Colleen Deacon and that the wide margin is largely due to support he is pulling from outside the Republican Party.

The poll found that 28 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents support Katko, giving him a 53-34 percent lead over Deacon.

Katko’s favorability positions him well ahead of his party's presidential nominee, according to polls that show Republican Donald Trump trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton by 12 points.

"They think I’m in a vulnerable seat, but we’ll see if that holds true," Katko said. "This is why I went to Congress—to get things done."

"If I couldn’t get things done, I wouldn’t still be here," he said. "I just hope that I can lead by example."

Brent Scher   Email Brent | Full Bio | RSS
Brent Scher is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Virginia, where he studied foreign affairs and politics.

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