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After Senate GOP blocks Jan. 6 commission, Katko says ‘it’s not over yet’

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Rep. John Katko in Syracuse last week.

After Senate Republicans blocked an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who negotiated the agreement with Democrats in the House, said it’s not over yet.

Five people were killed, including three law enforcement officers, in a riot at the Capitol, following a rally for then-President Trump. More than a hundred officers were injured. Katko said he’ll keep pushing for the commission and the reforms that are needed. 

“I stepped out on that, I’ll step out again tomorrow because I believe very firmly, it’s not about politics, it’s about a highly dysfunctional police department that is charged with guarding the Capitol and keeping us safe,” Katko said. “It’s completely dysfunctional."

Katko referenced a vote in February by the U.S. Capitol police union, which found that more than 90% had no-confidence in the force’s top leaders. The House passed Katko's Jan. 6 commission with 35 Republicans joining the Democrats. Six Republicans in the Senate voted for it, but Democrats needed ten. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said they have to get to the bottom of what happened.

“The best way is like the 9/11 Commission, bipartisan,” Schumer said. “That’s what we had set up. It was 50% Democrats, 50% Republicans. Only subpoena power if both agreed. Witnesses, staff, both agree. Hopefully, maybe over the break or later, more Republicans will join us. But if not, gonna find another way. A commission will be set up, but it won’t be as bipartisan.”

Upstate Republican members of Congress were split on voting for the commission. Katko and Finger Lakes Rep. Tom Reed voted for it. Mohawk Valley Rep. Claudia Tenney and North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik voted against it. In a statement, Tenney called it a waste of taxpayer money because there have already been bipartisan, congressional hearings, and the commission is “a fishing expedition” that she fears will “cherry-pick the evidence to conform to the Democrats’ narrative.” Stefanik echoed that sentiment, calling it “a political tool for (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and far-left Democrats.” She said it fails to “address the broad scope of political violence” like Black Lives Matter protests.

Katko on cybersecurity

Katko, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the U.S. government and the private sector need to invest more into cybersecurity and take the threat more seriously. This comes following a committee hearing last week on the cyberattack against Colonial Pipeline in May, which led the company to shut down the pipeline.

“Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are going to eat our lunch if we don’t have better defensive and offensive measures in the cybersecurity area,” Katko said.

He also spoke to CNBC last week, and said the Colonial Pipeline attack came from Russia and the country should be severely punished. The U.S. cybersecurity agency, he said, is completely overwhelmed and needs more funding. A national cyber director, nominated by President Biden, Katko said, will also help coordinate cybersecurity efforts.

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.