New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Republicans’ refusal to bail out cash-strapped states “will lead to defeat for us all,” in an epic rant on Tuesday against the federal government’s “decades” of mismanagement and crippling partisanship in the face of COVID-19.
“It’s not red or blue, it’s red, white, and blue. This coronavirus doesn’t pick Democrats or Republicans. It doesn’t kill Democrats or Republicans, it kills Americans,” Cuomo said during his daily press briefing in New York City, urging the nation to embrace “factual, productive and united” bipartisanship to pass a virus relief stimulus bill necessary to “get this economy back on its feet.”
“The virus is less discriminating and more of an equalizer than the lens through which we’re viewing it,” he added. “And if we can’t get past this now, when can we get past this? You can’t put your politics aside even now, even today?”
Cuomo has repeatedly feuded with Republican leadership over the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. In a Monday interview with the New York Post, Trump said he wouldn’t provide federal aid to states that have been hit hard by the coronavirus, including New York, because they’re mostly blue states.
“I think Congress is inclined to do a lot of things, but I don’t think they’re inclined to do bailouts. A bailout is different than, you know, reimbursing for the plague,” Trump said. “It’s not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help—they’re run by Democrats in every case. Florida is doing phenomenal, Texas is doing phenomenal, the Midwest is, you know, fantastic—very little debt.”
Trump, who was happy to bail out the airline and cruise ship industries with $58 billion, has also floated the idea of incorporating a state’s use of “sanctuary cities” in bailout considerations.
“If you starve the states, how do you expect the states to be able to fund this entire reopening plan?” Cuomo said, adding that Democratic lawmakers will not pass another bill that does not provide funding for states. “The president, in my opinion, has to be the responsible one here.”
Cuomo, who has been asking for federal funding for weeks, said the federal government has the authority to “literally determine how many people live or die.” New York is grappling with a $13.3 billion budget shortfall and is projected to lose another $61 billion over four years as a result of the public health crisis.
Cuomo said New York was resilient enough to bounce back from what he previously called an “economic tsunami” but he said he was more appalled that the federal government was in a stalemate over allocating funds in the next stimulus bill to state and local governments.
“It’s not a blue-state issue. Every state has coronavirus cases. This is not any mismanagement by the states,” Cuomo said. “If anything, the mismanagement has been on behalf of the federal government, and that's where the mismanagement has gone back decades.”
Trump’s comments to the Post echoed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who suggested last week that states most affected by the pandemic should consider filing for bankruptcy rather than seeking additional aid from the federal government. McConnell said any additional assistance to state and local governments needed to be “thoroughly evaluated.”
Cuomo, who has repeatedly slammed McConnell for his “absurd” suggestion, said Tuesday that New York had paid $116 billion more than it had received from the federal government annually, money he wished “to get back” if Republicans refused to provide relief funding. New York had given the most money to the federal government, while Kentucky—McConnell’s home state—was among the top three states to receive more than they give, he added.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also slammed Trump on Tuesday, calling the president “a pure hypocrite” for putting politics over the coronavirus response. In his daily briefing, de Blasio said Trump claimed he does not “do bailouts” but provided nearly $58 billion to the airline industry amid the pandemic.
“He says he’s not inclined to do bailouts. He’s a pure hypocrite given how much money he’s put in the hands of the corporations and the wealthy already,” de Blasio said, noting that the pandemic is projected to cost the city $7.4 billion in lost tax revenue next year. “That means he’s not inclined to help firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, police officers, doctors, nurses, health-care workers, teachers, sanitation workers.”
Seemingly in response to Cuomo’s harsh words, Trump took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to suggest “poorly run” states were using the pandemic as an excuse to secure federal funds.
“Well run States should not be bailing out poorly run States, using CoronaVirus as the excuse!” Trump tweeted, adding that “the elimination of Sanctuary Cities, Payroll Taxes, and perhaps Capital Gains Taxes, must be put on the table.”
The political squabble comes as New York officials shift their attention to reopening the economy. To date, 25,000 state residents have died and 318,953 more have been infected with the coronavirus. Cuomo said that, although 230 people died in the last 24 hours, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths have decreased over the last week.
And while the state seems to be past the worst of the pandemic, Cuomo stressed his continued apprehension about lifting shelter-in-place restrictions too early, triggering a second wave of the disease.
“There’s a cost to staying closed, no doubt. Economic cost, personal cost. There’s also a cost to reopening quickly. Either option has a cost,” Cuomo said. “The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost because the more lives lost. That, my friends, is the decision we are really making. What is that balance? What is that trade-off?”
Federal projections now estimate the COVID-19 death toll will increase from 60,000 to 100,000. Cuomo reiterated Tuesday that, despite political and economic pressure to loosen restrictions, New York still has a long way to go between public life to return to a “new normal.”