Katko breaks with NY GOP to support impeachment

Rep. John Katko was the first Republican to vote for Trump's impeachment.
Rep. John Katko was the first Republican to vote for Trump's impeachment.
Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock
Rep. John Katko was the first Congressional Republican to vote for Trump's impeachment.

Katko breaks with NY GOP to support impeachment

All other Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation stand with President Trump.
January 13, 2021

Rep. John Katko, a Republican from Central New York, joined the House of Representatives’ Democratic majority Wednesday to vote in favor of impeaching President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Katko became the first congressional Republican to announce his intention to vote for impeachment. He was joined by nine others. 

But Katko is at odds with the other six New York Republicans in the House who voted against impeachment, all of whom continue to stand by Trump even after he incited his supporters ahead of the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol by rioters who wanted to block congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

“To allow the President of the United States to incite this attack without consequence is a direct threat to the future of our democracy,” Katko said as part of a lengthy statement released by his office on Tuesday. “For that reason, I cannot sit by without taking action. I will vote to impeach this President.”

With the Wednesday afternoon vote, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. He was previously impeached in Dec. 2019 for attempting to force Ukraine through extortion to launch a spurious investigation of Biden, who was the Democratic frontrunner at the time. The Senate, then held by Republicans, voted to acquit. This time, a Senate trial is not expected until after Biden takes office on Jan. 20. 

Katko has more political incentive to break with Trump than many of his Republican colleagues: he represents an upstate district that favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016 by more than three percentage points and in 2020 by nine percentage points. A member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, he has positioned himself as a moderate. Despite calling the president a “knucklehead,” Katko supported Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, after declining to endorse Trump in 2016. Katko had previously broken with the majority of his fellow New York Republicans by voting to certify the results of the presidential election last week. Reps. Chris Jacobs, Nicole Malliotakis, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin all voted to object to the results in certain states, despite there being no evidence of fraud, even according to local Republican elected officials and Republican-appointed judges who reviewed the Trump campaign’s specious claims. Reps. Tom Reed, who represents the Southern Tier, and Andrew Garbarino of Long Island joined Katko in voting to certify the results. However they joined the majority of Republicans on Wednesday in opposing impeachment. Including Katko, just 10 Republicans out of the 211-member caucus voted for impeachment.

All the Democrats in New York’s delegation voted in favor of impeaching Trump for the second time. Trump has been accused of “inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” Rep. Jerry Nadler, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn and chairs the House Judiciary Committee, was a lead sponsor of the resolution.

The Conservative Party of New York, which endorsed Katko in his 2020 reelection bid, chastised him on Twitter Wednesday morning, saying that the party “is very disappointed” with Katko’s support for impeachment. “We consider his action ill-informed. It will do nothing to end the national divide and will likely further aggravate it.”

Malliotakis, a close ally of the Conservative Party, echoed the message on her own Twitter account, saying “impeachment will only divide us further. We must move forward together & work to overcome this pandemic, reopen our economy & get Americans back to work.”

Many New York Democrats gave speeches in favor of impeachment on the House floor ahead of the vote on Wednesday. Trump “is unfit to hold office,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “He summoned and dispatched a mob to assassinate Vice President (Mike) Pence. To assassinate Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi.”

Jeff Coltin
is a senior reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.
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