Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), one of a handful of Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, has announced that he will retire at the end of his term.
Katko, who has faced criticism and ostracism from GOP colleagues for his impeachment vote, is the third House Republican who voted for impeachment to retire. Also retiring are Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of two Republicans who sit on the Democrat-dominated Jan. 6 Committee.
In total, ten GOP lawmakers voted to impeach Trump, and retirements from this small coalition of defectors have far outpaced general GOP House member retirements. Among the 12 House Republicans who have announced their intention to retire, three are from Republicans who voted for impeachment.
Katko and others have faced pressure from other Republicans not only over his impeachment vote, but also over his vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and his support for forming the Jan. 6 Committee.
Like other GOP retirees who defected on important issues, Katko would have been prime targets for primary challengers later this year, especially as Trump readies a laundry list of endorsements in races across the nation.
Katko made the announcement in a Facebook post.
“For the past 32 years, I’ve devoted my life to protecting and serving our community and our country,” Katko’s post began. “First as a federal prosecutor, and now as a Member of Congress, it has been my mission to unite people in order to solve serious problems.”
Katko continued: “We have had great success in this mission: passing a long-needed and bipartisan infrastructure package, addressing drug addiction and mental health, lowering taxes on the middle class, leading efforts to secure our homeland and keep this country safe—and far too many others to mention.”
In his post, Katko also tried to bury any speculation that his retirement was based on reelection concerns.
“Over the course of the past three years, my wife Robin and I buried all four of our parents. To say that those gut-wrenching times provided life-changing perspective for me is putting it mildly,” Katko explained. “That’s why, after 32 years of public service, I have decided not to seek re-election to Congress, so that I can enjoy my family and life in a fuller and more present way.”
“I am thrilled to begin this next and best chapter of my life alongside Robin and our family,” Katko’s announcement concluded.
Following Katko’s announcement, President Donald Trump released his own statement celebrating the retirement.
“Great news, another one bites the dust. Katko, from Upstate New York, is gone!” Trump wrote in a brief statement.
In addition to voting for the creation of the Jan. 6 Committee, Katko was one of nine Republicans who voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress.
Democrats’ decision to pursue a contempt charge against Bannon was itself controversial and unprecedented, as Bannon claimed to be protected from legislative subpoena by executive privilege. Despite a long precedent of accepting executive privilege as a defense in such cases, Attorney General Merrick Garland’s DOJ moved ahead with the charges.
GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged his caucus to vote against the contempt charge at the time, arguing that the Jan. 6 Committee’s subpoena was “invalid.” However, Katko was unswayed and voted with Democrats to hold the former White House advisor in contempt of Congress.
Aside from his more recent votes, Katko has long been a relatively unpredictable swing voter.
In 2019, Katko co-sponsored legislation that would have dramatically expanded Civil Rights Act protections to apply to all sexual orientations and “gender identities.”
Also in 2019, Katko joined with Democrats to pass a resolution condemning efforts by the Trump administration to weaken or undo the Affordable Care Act [“Obamacare”].
Retirements have been heavy in the House ahead of the 2022 midterms, especially among Democrats.
At the time of publication, 26 House Democrats have announced that they intend not to seek reelection. Many of these hail from districts that are considered GOP targets in the 2022 House races, which are widely expected to go strongly in Republicans’ favor.
Katko’s retirement is sure to kick off a bidding war among GOP contenders for Trump’s endorsement to the now-empty seat as Trump-adjacent Republicans move to consolidate their hold on Congress.
Katko’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.