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How will upstate GOP House members in minority work with Democrats?

Rep. John Katko
Facebook (file photo)
Incoming Democratic Congressman Anthony Brindisi (left) meets with Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) at Katko's office in Washington D.C.

Next year will be the first time some upstate House Republicans will be in the minority. Central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said he has built a lot of bridges with Democrats over the last four years.

Katko said he always made sure Democrats had bills that were included in the committees he serves on.

“We went on congressional delegations together and I’ve built a lot of friendships," Katko said. "And I’m hoping those bridges go both ways and that they’re in the majority now, they’ll have the same type of courtesy to me.”

Katko said he thinks Republicans and Democrats will find common ground on issues like infrastructure, health care, the opioid epidemic and maybe taxes. And he said right now, the Democratic Party is having its own Tea Party moment, referring to the 2010 influx of Republican House members on the far-right.

“They have an extreme element of their party on the left, that is about 30-35 congressmen and women," Katko said. "They’re going to be very difficult for the Democrats to get anything done, unless they work with us a little bit.”

Katko met with incoming Mohawk Valley Democratic Congressman Anthony Brindisi last month. In a Facebook post, Brindisi said they talked about ways they can work across the aisle.

“There’s always going to be extremes on both sides trying to pull members to one side or the other," Brindisi said in a phone interview in November. "I’m going to try to look for ways we can compromise and get things done. That’s why the voters sent me to Washington.” 

Brindisi won a close race in an overwhelmingly Republican district and he said he will hold town hall meetings to get feedback from his constituents on the issues.

Finger Lakes Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) said some areas where Democrats and Republicans could come together are infrastructure, drug pricing, immigration and prison reform.

“Not necessarily criminal justice reform, but what we do in the prison system to reform it in order to put people in the best position not to get out of prison and then fall back into prison as we find in the data happens, in real life, happens way too often, in regards to what the prisons are doing,” Reed said.

In a statement, North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) said she will continue her bipartisan work in the next Congress, focusing on growing the economy, helping veterans, fixing health care, promoting trade, strengthening Fort Drum and protecting the environment.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.