New York Governor Andrew Cuomo went to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to meet with President Donald Trump and congressional leaders. It’s safe to say, some of those meetings went better than others.
Appearing at the National Press Club afterward, Cuomo, a Democrat, said his chat with Trump went well, keying on big infrastructure projects in New York that can help jump-start the economy there and nationwide.
“It was a good discussion,” Cuomo said. “You know the president is from New York. He has a good context for all the things we’re talking about. I think the president also acknowledges and realizes that, New York, we’re very aggressive about getting these projects done and getting them done on time.”
How soon would Cuomo like to get started? “I have a shovel in the trunk of my car,” he said.
The New York leader did not seem as sanguine about his meetings with Congressional leaders. Cuomo began by clarifying his motives.
“I’ve been 100 miles away from any political anything all through this,” said the governor. “Personally, I went to great lengths to say to the people of my state, ‘I have no political agenda. I’m not running for anything. I don’t want to go Washington.’ There’s no personal agenda that they have to calibrate. ‘Well, is he doing what’s right, or is he doing what’s right for him? Does he have a self interest?’ I have no interest. I’m doing nothing. I’m governor of New York, that’s all I’m doing. Just to take the politics out of it.”
It seems Cuomo did not sense the same spirit in congressional leaders.
“This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country,” said the governor. “We have people saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to pass a bill that helps Democratic states. It would be a blue-state bailout.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Cuomo, is interested in “Stopping blue state bailouts.”
Senator Rick Scott of Florida has said, according to Cuomo, “We’re supposed to bail them out? That’s not right.”
“This is really an ugly, ugly sentiment,” maintained the New York Governor. “It is an un-American response. We’re still the United States. Those words meant something.”
Cuomo said he isn’t asking the federal government to do his state’s job.
“I understand that states are responsible for the reopening…but, at the same time, the federal government has a role to play and it has to play a part. There cannot be a national recovery if the state and local governments are not funded. That is a fact.”
Washington is now debating a new recovery bill, he said.
“Previous bills have helped large business, small businesses, all kinds of businesses. Hotels. Airlines. That’s great,” maintained Cuomo. But state and local governments fund schools and hospitals, police, fire.
“The COVID states — the states that bore the brunt — they’re one-third of the GDP,” noted the governor. “How can you tell one-third of the country to go to heck and think that you’re going to see an economic rebound?”
“Also, state economies, that’s what the national economy is made of,” he said. “There is no nation without the states. They tend to forget that in this town.”
Cuomo then sharpened his attack.
“First of all, Mr. Federal Legislator, you’re nothing without the states. And you represent the United States.”
Not only is that rhetoric “ugly,” said Cuomo, “it is false. It is wholly untrue, what they are saying. One-hundred percent.”
“And there are facts,” said the governor, “if you want to pose a question: ‘What states give money and what states take money?’ There is a financial equation that is the federal government. That’s a question that Senator McConnell and Senator Scott…don’t really want to ask. Because the truth is totally the opposite of what they’re saying.”
“You look at the states that give more money to the federal government than they get back,” said Cuomo, showing a slide of the top and bottom five states. “You know the top, what they call, ‘donor state?’ You know what one state pays in more to the pot than it takes out more than any other state? It’s the State of New York. New York pays in more every year — $29 billion more — than they take out.”
That’s followed by New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and California. What states take the most, according to Cuomo? Virginia, Maryland, Alabama, Kentucky and Florida. “Those are the facts.”
“The great irony is that the conservatives argue against the redistribution of wealth. ‘Why should you take money from the rich and give it to the poor?'” But, claimed the governor, “That’s exactly what you are doing! Exactly what you have done every year. So it’s only ‘redistribution’… unless you wind up getting more money.”
“They’re against redistribution of money,” he said with a laugh, “except when they’re taking money!”
“You’re the poor, Senator McConnell, Senator Scott. Because you are the ones who have your hands out. Redistribution, you’re against it. Except when the richer states give you more money every year.”
“The hypocrisy is so insulting,” said Cuomo. “Because when you talk about numbers, there are still facts. And people can still add. And people can still subtract. And they know what they put in and they know what they take out. And I know it’s Washington D.C., but the truth still matters.
“So my point to our friends in the Congress: Stop abusing New York. Stop abusing New Jersey. Stop abusing Connecticut, Stop abusing Illinois and Michigan and Pennsylvania. Stop abusing the states who bore the brunt of the COVID virus.”
“It’s because the COVID virus came from Europe, and no one in this nation told us. We were told, ‘The virus is coming from China’…They missed it…It was not New York’s job. We don’t do international/global health. And now you want to hold that against us? Because we bore the brunt of a national mistake?”
“You want to now double the insult the injury by saying, ‘Why should we help those states.'”
Trump, it seems, was more amenable.
“I said to the president when all this started, ‘Put the politics aside. Let’s just figure out what we have to do — which is a heck of a mandate, since nobody’s ever done it before — and let’s do it. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”
“At the meeting we just had,” said Cuomo of his time with Trump, “it was the same way. It was not about politics. It was about: How do we supercharge the reopening — especially in New York, which has been hard hit. How do we take some of these big infrastructure projects which have been sitting around for a long time — which if we were all smarter and better we would have done 30 years ago — and because we need the jobs now more than ever.”
Specifically, they talked about work on the 2nd Avenue Subway, the air train from LaGuardia Airport and two tunnels across the Hudson carrying Amtrak trains that “serve the entire northeast,” said Cuomo. “If you stop train service to those two tunnels, you stop train service to the entire Northeast U.S. It would be devastating to the nation.”
“In Washington we have this fragmented view. Either the national economy works or none of it works,” said the Governor. “You cut out the Northeast, you’re cutting your nose to spite your face. So those two tunnels have to be replaced.”
“I think the president is focused on the reopening, on stimulating the economy,” said Cuomo. “I think that’s the correct focus.”
“Look, when he ran he spoke about a $1 trillion infrastructure project,” recalled the governor. “He’s a builder. He gets it. The nice thing about these projects is it doesn’t require the legislature. He can just do it.”
“When is there going to be a better moment in history to build them?”
Watch Cuomo’s briefing below.
By Tom Tapp
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