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Katko says Obama is disconnected from Congress, reality

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

In his response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said Obama is disconnected from Congress and reality. Despite those differences, there were some proposals the president mentioned that Katko plans to support.

Katko agrees with some items on the president's wish list, like tackling sentencing reform and rolling back some of the regulations on businesses. Obama's calls to address the heroin epidemic and reduce poverty also gained Katko's support.

"Central New York has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and with respect to minorities, Hispanics and African Americans, it is the highest poverty rate in the country," Katko said. 

But, he said the president is out of touch with most Americans about ISIS.

"It’s their number one priority -- soccer moms and everyone else. They’re worried about their safety," Katko said. "There’s no greater reminder than that than on New Year’s Eve, just 70 miles down the road in Rochester, they foiled an imminent ISIS attack."

Obama did say Tuesday that protecting the American people by going after terrorist networks is the number one priority. Yet, he defended the gains the country has made against ISIS, such as its 9,500 air strikes against the group.

"The U.S. is most powerful nation on Earth, period," Obama said to applause from his Democratic colleagues. "It’s not even close."

Yet Katko, who is on a Homeland Security committee focusing on ISIS, said the president lacks a strategy in the fight. That's where he says his committee steps in. The group proposed 50 recommendations last year that Katko said will be a blueprint for legislation on how to defeat the terrorist group.

There was at least one other statement Obama made with which Katko agrees. Obama said that one of his few regrets is the level of partisanship in Washington, D.C. Katko has seen that firsthand. 

"There’s a lot of people who don’t get along and there’s a lot of entrenched stupidity for lack of a better term," Katko said. "But, there’s also some glimmers of hope."

Katko agrees with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who in the GOP response to the president's address said Democrats and her fellow Republicans are to blame for the high partisanship in D.C. Still, he said Congress may be entering a new, less tumultuous era.

"There’s a good bunch of people on both sides who are beginning to realize it’s not heresy to work with the other side," Katko said. "You don’t have to sacrifice your principles to do that."

Earlier this month, Katko voted against Republican-led bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. The legislation passed, but Obama has since vetoed both.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.