SYRACUSE, NY (WSKG) – There has been the usual partisan bickering in Washington this week, as Congress started negotiations on the next coronavirus relief bill that needs to be passed before the end of the month. As Democratic and Republican leadership debate what it should include, and how much it will cost, two local congressmen are hopeful a bipartisan deal can be struck.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) got together for a virtual town hall on Facebook this week, the first time they’ve ever done such a joint meeting.
Katko, a Republican, and Brindisi, a Democrat, are pretty much on the same page on aspects of the COVID-19 relief bill; both emphasizing that some of the funding must go to local governments and school districts reeling from the effects of the coronavirus shutdown. Brindisi said it’s important that this bill gets bipartisan support.
“You and I have now voted for six separate COVID relief bills John, and every one of those were bi-partisan,” Brindisi said. “That should not stop now because there’s an election down the road, and everyone’s looking at and how they can one-up each other.”
Katko agreed, and he’s hoping the tenor in Washington right now means a compromise is imminent.
“The posturing on both sides is at a fever pitch right now,” Katko said. “And it’s always like that before a deal is struck, so stay tuned and relax. I’m confident something will get done.”
The pressure is on because Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the month of August, so lawmakers can hit the campaign trail. Both Katko and Brindisi are facing tough rematches in their bid for re-election. Both have used working together in a bipartisan manner as a campaign pitch.
One thing Katko is worried about is whether the state’s fiscal issues interfere with the biggest infrastructure project in central New York, the revamping of the Interstate 81 interchange in Syracuse.
“If the state doesn’t have the money to fund their portion of it, it gets delayed,” Katko said. “If it gets delayed much longer, I’m not sure how much more stress that 81 viaduct can take before real structural issues happen. We’ve got to get that taken care of.”
The state Department of Transportation is continuing to look at impacts of a $2 billion project that would tear down the viaduct and reroute through traffic onto I-481. The Federal Highway Administration will fund most of the massive project, however the state has already paid millions in consultant fees and continues an environmental review before making a final recommendation on the project.