As U.S. Rep. John Katko touts his credentials as a moderate in Congress, Democratic challenger Dana Balter is seeking to refute that perception in a new television airing in central New York.
In the 30-second commercial, Balter's campaign cites a FiveThirtyEight tally that shows Katko, R-Camillus, has voted in line with President Donald Trump's position 90.2 percent of the time. It also criticizes his vote for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a tax reform measure Congress passed last year.
The FiveThirtyEight analysis focuses on Katko's votes on key legislation and doesn't factor in procedural votes and other minor roll call tallies. Some of the bills received wide bipartisan support, while others were mostly backed by Republicans.
The assessment, which covers votes in the current Congress, also includes bills Trump supported but Katko didn't. Most recently, Katko opposed the farm bill because he believed it would harm Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program recipients in his district.
The ad repeats a claim levied at Katko throughout the campaign — that with his support for the tax law he voted to give "almost all the benefits to the wealthy and special interests." Analysis of the tax law indicates that 83 percent of the benefits will go to the wealthy if the individual income tax cuts aren't renewed after 2025.
Another claim in the new Balter campaign commercial is that Katko "repeatedly voted against protections for preexisting conditions." The ad cites four House votes, all in 2017. One is the vote for the tax overhaul, which the House passed Dec. 20, 2017.
The tax law included a provision eliminating the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance coverage. Beginning in 2019, the individual mandate penalty will no longer be in effect.
Because of this, some GOP state attorneys general are arguing that the entire 2010 health care law should be deemed unconstitutional because the individual mandate has been repealed. Since the Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from charging more or denying coverage for those with preexisting conditions, supporters of the health care law contend the tax vote put those protections at risk.
Here are the other votes mentioned in the ad:
• A procedural vote in January 2017 on a motion to recommit with instructions. An amendment was offered to the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 that would preserve protections for those with preexisting conditions. To add that language to the bill, however, the motion to recommit was necessary. It failed in the House, with the Republican majority (and Katko) voting against it. While the amendment did include language pertaining to preexisting conditions, the vote wasn't on the amendment. It was on the motion to allow for the measure to be amended.
• The two votes in May 2017 were also on motions that, according to Balter's campaign, blocked an amendment to preserve protections for preexisting conditions. Both votes were on "ordering the previous question," a technical term for ending debate in the House. By ordering the previous question, the House closes debate and prevents amendments to a bill.
Similar to the January 2017 vote, the May 2017 votes weren't on the amendment to protect those with preexisting conditions.
Balter's ad is her latest in the 24th Congressional District race and the first since announcing she raised more than $1.5 million in the third quarter of 2018.