Governor Andrew Cuomo, a rumored 2020 Democratic presidential contender, met with President-elect Donald Trump this morning to make sure the incoming commander-in-chief prioritizes the needs of his home state—and to highlight the importance of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act to New Yorkers.
Cuomo arrived at Trump Tower at 11 a.m. sharp—the precise time he was scheduled to arrive—and headed for the elevators, promising to speak to reporters after his conversation with the soon-to-be leader of the free world. He and Trump, both Queens natives, chatted for close to an hour.
“If the Affordable Care Act is ended, we have 3 million Americans, 3 million New Yorkers uninsured and that’s 3 million families,” Cuomo continued. “It would have a dramatic impact on the state and not just for those 3 million. We now live in a community where if you sneeze, I get sick, right? This is all about public health.”
The governor said that Trump is about to embark on policy-setting for the country, and indicated he wanted to make sure that the president-elect was aware of the effect his proposals would have on his native state.
“He’s going to do a State of the Union, he’s going to be doing a budget and I wanted to make sure that he had the context of New York in those conversations,” Cuomo told reporters in front of the elevator bank at Trump Tower. “We just finished our New York State budget and many of the issues that are being discussed in Washington would have a profound effect on New York, not just New York but all big states across the country.”
Cuomo said he informed Trump of the consequences of a proposal to end the deductibility of state and local taxes on states such as New York and California. The governor said he also touched on how the U.S. Department of Housing Preservation and Development—the agency he headed during the Clinton administration—”could be a great, great ally to cities and states” as far as combatting homelessness and getting housing production “up once again.”
And he stressed the need to improve infrastructure in New York State, noting the need for federal input on many of the big projects he wants to get done such as improving LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports and the “dramatic improvement” needed for the subway system. The governor recently celebrated the opening of first phase of the long-stalled Second Avenue Subway.
“We talked about infrastructure, which is something the president-elect very much wants to concentrate on,” he said. “We are ready to go in New York. We are ready to build. If he wants to put federal money to use and put federal money to use quickly, this is the state to do it.”
He also told reporters that he has “tremendous” respect for civil rights icon John Lewis, a Georgia congressman. Trump attacked Lewis on social media over the weekend after the lawmaker asserted that he is not a “legitimate president.”
Cuomo told reporters that he, like Lewis and many other Democrats, will not attend Trump’s inauguration.
The governor has repeatedly blasted Trump’s calls for a wall on the Mexican border, and spoke at length at the Democratic convention in July. But he subsequently upset fellow Democrats by meeting publicly with the then-Republican presidential candidate Trump at last year’s 9/11 memorial service.
He also caught flak from liberal groups that having Trump as president would be a “bonus not just for this state, but for other states also,” and later took to Facebook to clarify his remarks.
Cuomo is one of just 16 Democratic governors remaining nationwide, and has commented increasingly on national issues, stoking speculation that he has designs on the White House. But a recent poll showed that, though New Yorkers generally like their governor and loathe Trump, most residents of the Empire State believe Cuomo would be a poor presidential candidate.
At one point, a reporter asked the governor if the conversation was two Queens boys “chewing the fat” or if it was more adversarial. He said the conversation was not adversarial and tried to downplay their past ties.
“It was not adversarial,” he said. “I don’t know what you mean by two Queens boys chewing the fat. We didn’t chew the fat in Queens. Maybe two people with Queens accents, but we never chewed the fat.”
Still, Cuomo insisted that Trump appeared to be informed on all of the issues, calling it a “good” conversation. The governor recalled his own work in Washington for under former President Bill Clinton and said he was up to date on all federal policy options—as a result, he felt that Trump needed to understand how those options affected the state.
He said Trump understood “exactly what I was saying and the magnitude of what I was saying.”
“He was knowledgeable about the issues, on the Affordable Care Act and the different options that were being discussed,” Cuomo said. “He was knowledgeable about the issue of state and local deductibility, which is a very big issue. So he’s been briefed on the federal side. I wanted to make sure he had the New York State perspective from a budget point of view as he’s considering those federal issues.”
A number of Republican senators have expressed unease about abrogating Obamacare without a replacement plan ready. Nonetheless, the House GOP has already initiated the repeal process.