In his first votes as a member of the House minority, Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko sided with the Democratic majority on a slew of rules changes and legislation to end the government shutdown.
Katko, R-Camillus, was one of three Republicans who voted on Wednesday to adopt the rules proposed by House Democrats. It was the first time in nearly two decades members of the opposing party supported rules changes adopted by the majority party.
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican, joined Katko in supporting the new rules.
One of the major changes adopted by House Democrats was supported by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of members that includes Katko and Reed.
Democrats altered the motion to vacate the chair, which can be used to remove and replace a House speaker. When Republicans controlled the House, the conservative wing of the party threatened to use the motion against then-Speaker John Boehner in 2015.
Under the new rules, a motion to vacate the chair would be considered only if it has the support of a majority of the House Democratic or GOP conferences.
The other rules changes included more Democratic-friendly measures, such as the creation of a climate change committee and automatic debt ceiling increases when a budget is approved.
There are other changes that both parties favor, including tougher ethics rules and a 72-hour review period for members to read important bills before votes.
Katko said he supported the rules because it will help make the House more efficient.
"Bills with broad support will now be considered quickly and the legislative process will become more transparent," he said. "I am hopeful that with these changes, the institution will function in a more bipartisan manner."
Part of the rules resolution allows House Democrats to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys generals challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Proponents of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, say the lawsuit threatens several key provisions, such as protections for individuals with preexisting conditions.
The attorneys general filed the lawsuit after the adoption of the GOP tax law, which included the elimination of the Affordable Care Act's requirement that individuals buy health insurance coverage. The individual mandate penalty won't be in effect beginning this year.
A federal judge recently sided with the attorneys general, but the case will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rules that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the law will be thrown out.
Katko, who voted for the tax law and opposed the individual mandate, does support preserving protections for those with pre-existing conditions and other provisions of the health care law. He noted in a statement that he supported a resolution that would require Congress to "act swiftly" and reinstate protections if they are affected by a court ruling.
"With the changes made today, I urge Democrats to use this authority to fight for those with pre-existing conditions — not abuse their power to explore or revisit decided legal challenges within the Affordable Care Act," he said.
Late Thursday, Katko broke with his party again to support a spending bill that would end the government shutdown.
The House Democrats' spending plan would fund government operations, but it wouldn't include more than $5 billion for the border wall demanded by President Donald Trump.
When Republicans controlled the House in December, Katko voted for a bill that would've provided the wall funding.
While Katko agrees that there needs to be funding for border security, he criticized both parties for failing to act on comprehensive immigration reform. In a statement, he explained that he promised to never vote to shut down the government or continue a shutdown. He believes with his vote that he kept that promise.
He was one of seven Republicans who supported the bill to end the government shutdown and fund key programs, such as the Violence Against Women Act.
"I remain increasingly frustrated by the inaction of both sides in Congress on (immigration reform and border security)," he said. "Still, a government shutdown is a costly and unnecessary maneuver that does not help resolve Congress' failure to act."
The House Democrats' bill won't be considered by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. And President Trump has made it clear he wants the $5.7 billion for the border wall.