Unlike U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. John Katko doesn't feel "meh" about moderates.
Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx Democrat, criticized moderates during a recent appearance at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas. Being a moderate isn't a stance, she argued, but an "attitude toward life of meh."
Katko, R-Camillus, disagrees with Ocasio-Cortez about moderates. He has been described as a moderate because of his legislative record in Congress dating back to 2015. He has worked with Democratic members to pass legislation and follows a self-imposed rule to secure a Democratic co-sponsor whenever he introduces a new bill.
He views Ocasio-Cortez's comments and positions taken by some of the more conservative members of his party as part of a "zero-sum mentality" in Congress.
"I'll put my record up against hers. I'll put my record up against these other people with the extreme views," Katko said in a phone interview Friday. "Who's producing more? Who's getting more done? The proof is in the pudding. You can talk all you want, but unless you roll up your sleeves and are willing to listen to another person's point of view, you're never going to be successful legislatively."
Katko believes he is an example of how to work in a bipartisan manner and secure legislative victories, whether it's on broader national issues or subjects important to his district. He mentioned his authorship of a bill the House passed in his first term to address employee access controls at airports.
The bill, he explained, was opposed by unions and other interest groups due to concerns about workers' rights. He didn't ignore their opposition. Instead, he met with them and the discussions produced a compromise proposal.
"We got a really good bill out of the House," Katko said. "That is the essence of what we're supposed to be doing."
In three terms as a member of Congress, Katko has sponsored 67 bills, amendments and resolutions. The House has passed 29 of the measures. Five have been signed into law by President Donald Trump or President Barack Obama.
The bills signed into law don't include other Katko-sponsored measures that have been included in larger legislative packages signed by either president.
Katko's legislative record was recognized by a think tank, the Center for Effective Lawmaking, earlier this month. The center assigned every member of Congress a score based on several factors, including how many bills they introduced, how many advanced through the committee phase and the number of bills signed into law.
Katko earned the fourth-highest score among all members of Congress for sponsoring 29 bills in the 2017-18 sessions of the 115th Congress. The House passed 14 of his bills and Trump signed three into law.
Another accolade was presented to Katko last week. He received the Bipartisan Policy Center's annual Legislative Action Award. The award is presented to six lawmakers who have "demonstrated skill and courage in the face of political challenges to confront a political problem, provided a positive tenor to the legislative process, and improved the functioning of Congress through their example."
Along with Katko, a second New Yorker — U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus — received the honor.
Katko considers the award a "pretty big deal."
"It's the reason why I went to Congress was to try and advance that bipartisanship can work and we need to get back to it," he said.
While moderates tend to be viewed as more willing to be bipartisan, Katko doesn't feel effective legislating is limited to those in the middle.
He cited former President Ronald Reagan as an example. Reagan, a conservative hero, was open to compromise. He was willing to make deals with Democrats.
"You can be liberal and pragmatic and conservative and pragmatic," Katko said. "You don't have to be just a moderate to get things done. The more you're willing to bend, the more you're going to be considered a moderate. I think that's a good thing. I think we need more moderates. And I think we need more compromise."