U.S. Rep. John Katko offered positive reviews of President Donald Trump's second State of the Union and endorsed calls to lower prescription drug prices.
Trump said on Tuesday that his "next major priority" is lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs. Drug prices continue to rise and remain a burden for consumers in an already expensive health care system.
While light on specifics, Trump's plan aims to address the disparity in drug prices between the U.S. and other countries. Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries, he said, for the same drugs.
"This is wrong, this is unfair and together we will stop it," he said.
Trump urged Congress to address what he described as "global freeloading" and provide greater transparency for prescription drug consumers. One way transparency would be achieved is by requiring hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical companies to disclose drug prices.
The president believes disclosing the drug prices will encourage competition and lower costs.
Katko, R-Camillus, supports Trump's push to lower drug prices. He views it as an opportunity for a bipartisan agreement. In fact, Democratic leaders have expressed interest in working with Trump and Republicans on prescription drug price reform.
"That's something I'm really excited about," Katko said in a phone interview.
Trump highlighted other issues during his 80-minute-long State of the Union address. The subjects included ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, trade and criminal justice reform.
It wasn't a new topic for the president, but he once again raised the possibility of developing an infrastructure plan. He unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal last year, but it was criticized because it didn't include any new funding for projects. Instead of contributing federal money to the cause, it would rely heavily on state and local governments.
Trump reiterated the need for infrastructure legislation and is willing to work with both parties to reach an agreement.
"This is not an option," he said. "This is a necessity."
Katko agrees. If there are serious talks to develop an infrastructure plan, he will be involved. He is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
However, Katko believes there is a small window to pass an infrastructure bill. He predicted that if a significant infrastructure measure is passed, it's going to be within the next six months or so.
"The closer we get to the election season next year, it's less likely that we're going to have any progress," he said.
One of the main themes of Trump's address was immigration. Another government shutdown is a possibility if an agreement isn't reached by Feb. 15. Trump insists that any funding bill to keep the government open should contain money for a border wall. He requested $5.7 billion to construct barriers along a portion of the southern border.
There are ongoing discussions about border security and the need to avoid another shutdown. The most recent shutdown, which stretched from before Christmas until late January, lasted 35 days. It was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Katko doesn't think there will be a repeat. He agrees with Trump that walls along some parts of the border are necessary. He hopes the president won't need to take executive action, which is a possibility. Trump warned Congress that if there isn't an agreement on Feb. 15, he may declare a national emergency.
For Democrats, Katko said, it could be a golden opportunity to "extract a large price" while giving Trump what he wants. Something that could be part of an immigration and border security deal: Permanent protections for young undocumented immigrants who are already in the U.S.
"That's what bargaining is all about and that's what bipartisanship is all about," Katko said. "If (Democrats) blow that chance and ignore this opportunity, they do so at their own peril because the president, I think, is going to get what he wants one way or another. So they might as well get something out of it for themselves and for the country."