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Ivanka Trump participates with U.S. Rep. John Katko during a P-Tech panel discussion Monday at the Institute of Technology High School in Syracuse.

SYRACUSE — While in central New York Monday, Ivanka Trump praised U.S. Rep. John Katko and highlighted his support of her father's first major legislative achievement.

Trump's comments came during an education roundtable at the Institute of Technology at Central in Syracuse. She visited the school to learn more about its P-TECH program and how it helps prepare students for the workforce. 

During her opening remarks, Trump lauded Katko, R-Camillus, for his work in Congress. He has represented the Syracuse-area district, which includes all of Cayuga County, since 2015. 

"Congressman Katko has been a great champion for everyone in his district," she said. 

Trump singled out one of Katko's votes: His support of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that Congress passed in December. President Donald Trump signed the bill days later. 

Katko was one of four New York Republicans who voted for the final bill, which cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and reduced income tax rates for millions of Americans. At the time of the vote, he said it would benefit "a vast majority" of his constituents. 

"Your support and vote for tax reform was very important and we've seen the benefit of that as I travel across the country," Ivanka Trump said. 

The first daughter, who serves as adviser to the president, is the second Trump administration official to visit central New York in the last three weeks. Vice President Mike Pence headlined a Syracuse fundraiser for Katko and joined the congressman for a tour of Nucor Steel in Auburn. 

Like Trump, Pence praised Katko for supporting the tax legislation. He also recognized the congressman for his involvement in the drafting of an immigration reform proposal. 

The visits by Pence and Trump have provided ammunition for Katko's critics, who believe the Republican congressman hasn't voted in the best interests of his district and has sided too often with the president. 

Democratic congressional candidate Dana Balter, who is challenging Katko in the 24th district race, questioned her Republican opponent's independence. 

"Congressman Katko is literally standing with the Trump administration yet again," she said in a statement. "This is his reward for supporting Donald Trump's agenda — he votes with the president 90 percent of the time and the vice president and first daughter come to town as a thank you." 

When asked by the press after Monday's event if Ivanka Trump's visit was a "reward" for his support, Katko dismissed the criticism. 

"(Balter) can say what she wants, but that's not what this is about at all," he said. 

In 2016, Katko often criticized then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for comments on the campaign trail. He called for him to withdraw from the race after a video was released from years ago showing Trump making crude comments about women. 

Katko didn't vote for Trump in 2016. He cast a write-in vote for then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. 

Since Trump was sworn in as president last year, Katko has praised his response to the Syrian gas attack and the unsuccessful push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a 2010 law Republicans have been wanting to dismantle for years. 

Katko, though, is quick to mention his past disagreements with Trump. He voted against an Affordable Care Act repeal measure last year. He called his decision "gutsy," and said the White House is still upset with him for that vote. 

But the visits by Pence and Ivanka Trump seem to suggest that's not the case. Pence's political action committee, the Great America Committee, has donated to Katko's re-election campaign. The vice president also launched a joint fundraising committee, Protect the House, which benefits Katko and other Republicans in key districts. 

With Ivanka Trump in the region Monday, Katko downplayed what — if any — impact the visits will have on the midterm elections. 

"That will sort itself out and if I'm blessed with another two years, I'm blessed with another two years," he said. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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