“There’s nothing more bipartisan than keeping our country safe.”

Katko Leads Effort to Bridge Political Divide on Homeland Security

WASHINGTON, DC — In remarks on Tuesday before a virtual meeting of The Ripon Society and the Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange, House Homeland Security Ranking Member John Katko (NY-24) discussed the upcoming agenda of the Homeland Security panel and the bipartisan effort he is leading to keep the American people — and American institutions — safe in the face of rising political extremism and domestic terrorist attacks. 

“We have a lot of things that are bubbling to the surface, especially with respect to January 6th,” the New York lawmaker stated.  “I introduced a bill with Rodney Davis to establish a 9/11-style commission to really look at what happened and figure out how we can make sure this doesn’t happen again.  To me, building a wall around the Capitol is not a good idea.  But having a response force that’s ready, well-funded, and well-trained is probably a much better way to go. 

“We’ve already started to do that on the Homeland Security Committee with respect to domestic terrorism.  What is causing this rise in domestic terrorism?  It’s not just on the right — it’s on the left, as well.  We have Antifa-type people who are targeting and trying to burn down federal buildings in Portland and elsewhere.  What’s causing this? Obviously, the internet has a lot to do with that.

“It’s not just a right-wing issue — it’s extremism on both sides that’s causing the problems.  I think that’s one of the areas where we can be bipartisan.  Bennie Thompson and I are getting along very well. He’s said very favorable comments about me, and I’ve said the same about him, because we want to set the tone that there’s nothing more bipartisan than keeping our country safe.”

Bipartisanship aside, Katko made clear that he holds one person responsible for the attack on the Capitol last month. 

“From the election forward, the President stoked these issues and invited everyone to come down on January 6th,” he said.  “He advanced the lie that the election was stolen. He clearly got these people worked up, and then said things on the 6th that were just enough to make the water boil over.  And then he refused to tell people to stand down for two hours after the Capitol was invaded.  Forget if it was Trump.  What if it was Obama who did that? Or what if it was Biden? How would you feel?  When I said that to people, they said, well that’s different. No, it’s not.” 

Katko was first elected to Congress in 2014 after a 20-year career as a federal prosecutor.  Since his election, he has built a reputation not only as a leading expert on homeland security issues, but as a no-nonsense straight-shooter who is willing to work across the aisle and is not afraid to buck the party line.  

Following his remarks, Katko — who also serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee — was asked about the prospect of working with the Biden Administration and other areas where Republicans and Democrats might agree.

“I’ll work with anybody who wants to get things done,” he said.  “When Obama was in office, when Trump was in office, and now with Biden, I have said the same thing — I don’t care who’s sitting in that seat. I want to make them the most successful President I can because it’s good for the country. I tried hard with Obama, and we had a lot of successes.  And I had a lot of successes with Trump until the end. Going forward, I hope to have the same with Biden. 

“That said, I’m a little concerned about Biden. On Inauguration Day, I was very happy to hear what he was saying.  But since then, he’s just issued a slew of executive orders, and he doesn’t seem to be interested in reaching out too much so far.  But I hope that changes.  I think I’ve already proven that I’m willing to work across the aisle. I’m hopeful going forward, and I think infrastructure can be a real big one there for sure.”

Katko was also asked about his role as Chairman of the Republican Governance Group and what he views as the group’s mission over the next two years.

“The primary mission is to make sure that leadership is hearing on a regular basis and considering on a regular basis what the more moderate members or pragmatic members of conference want and need and what we can help deliver for them,” he said.  “If they know there’s a tough vote coming up and they know that we can help count votes and help them get votes, that’s going to help them. But when they know that a significant number of us feel a certain way, they can then respond.

“Kevin is initiating a meeting every two weeks with the leaders of the Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Group, the Problem Solvers Caucus, and the Republican Governance Group.  We just had our first meeting, and Kevin got a sense of how I was feeling and how some of us were feeling.  I let them know how I didn’t think it was such a good idea to go down and visit Trump and re-elevate him on the public side. I thought that was a very bad move — many of us did. So he got that sense loud and clear.” 

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.