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Cuomo urges Democrats to fight Trump on repealing Affordable Care Act

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers remarks during a

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers remarks during a rally held by 1199SEIU at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. The rally was held to protect quality healthcare in New York State. Credit: Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday urged congressional Democrats to “stand up” and “fight” against the Trump administration’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, suggesting they “take a page” from Republican lawmakers who blocked the Obama and Clinton administrations’ major policy initiatives.

At a rally in the Bronx, organized by the local 1199 SEIU health care workers union, Cuomo said he had a message for Democrats in Congress: “It’s not time to make a deal. It’s not time to get political. It’s time to get principled.”

Democrats “have to stand up and learn from what the Republicans did when they didn’t agree with something,” Cuomo said. “The Republican Congress fought Bill Clinton every step of the way, and the Republican Congress fought Barack Obama every step of the way, and these Democrats have to take a page out of their book, and say, ‘We’re not going to let you take us backwards.’”

Cuomo, citing state figures said one-in-six New Yorkers are insured under the Affordable Care Act, and noted that repealing the plan would result in 3 million New Yorkers losing their health care coverage.

His critical remarks stood in contrast to Cuomo’s past calls for bipartisanship — often using public events to tout his work with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Asked about the governor’s message, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), the newest member of Long Island’s congressional delegation, said he agreed with Cuomo “that we need to fight hard to defend our values,” and avoid a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But he added, “My goal is to try and work across party lines with Democrats and Republicans to actually try and solve problems.”

Coleman Lamb, a spokesman for Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), said Rice “certainly agrees that all of us need to stand our ground in this fight . . . For Representative Rice this isn’t about opposing Republicans to score political points, it’s about protecting the millions of people who will lose health insurance if President Trump and Republicans in Congress repeal the ACA instead of working with Democrats to improve it.”

Wednesday’s rally of more than 650 union members, held on the campus of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was billed as an event to speak out against GOP-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But Cuomo, whose name has been routinely floated as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, used the occasion to decry the Trump administration’s overall agenda.

“It’s not just about the affordable health care act — I wish it was only about one issue,” Cuomo said. “This is a question about who we are as a nation . . . what we believe as a nation.”

As the Trump administration unveiled plans this week to intensify deportation efforts against immigrants living in the country illegally, Cuomo, citing his family’s Italian ancestry, sought to assure immigrants “we’re trying to stop the attacks on immigrants in this nation . . . because I’m an immigrant, and I’m from a place of immigrants.”

Cuomo told the crowd “while they’re in Washington trying to tear down what we built, we’re going to build it stronger in New York.”

At the top of the governor’s remarks, someone in the crowd shouted “Cuomo for President!” prompting Cuomo to reply jokingly, “Don’t be starting trouble now.”

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