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Looking ahead to 2020?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in November in Manhattan.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks in November in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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Daily Point

Cuomo's state of mind

It wasn’t billed as a State of the State speech. It wasn’t delivered in Albany. The audience wasn’t the State Legislature. And it wasn’t January. But the talk Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivered Monday to the New York State Bar Association in Manhattan sure felt like a State of the State speech.

Cuomo attacked Washington, touted his accomplishments, unveiled his 2019 agenda, and set a timetable for accomplishing it — the first 100 days of the upcoming legislative session.

Cuomo has been unconventional with his State of the State events. He has spoken at different venues in Albany, and in 2017 took to the road with six addresses in different regions of the state. In 2016 and 2018, he spoke in front of the legislature and dignitaries in Albany, and got heckled by Brooklyn Assemb. Charles Barron.

This year’s quasi-SOS had Albany tongues wagging, with many lawmakers saying Cuomo was testing the waters for a possible 2020 presidential run.

“He’s wanting to see if he’s a serious national person,” one Democratic legislator told The Point. “The sooner he gets out a national message and sees how it’s reacted to, the better. Everyone is playing the field right now, he wants to see how his message is received.”

Cuomo’s announcement that he supports the legalization of recreational marijuana figures to garner national attention, legislative sources said, especially at a time of year when the news cycle is typically slow (not so much these days, though).

But Cuomo didn’t score points with some in his own party. “He did not talk to any of us about this,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “There certainly was some outreach from us when we heard he was going to make a speech. But he just went out and did this.”

Other lawmakers theorized that Cuomo wants to get out in front of a group of new Democrats who will join the Senate in January in terms of setting the agenda for the year.

Veteran Assemb. Fred Thiele, an Independence Party member from Sag Harbor who caucuses with Democrats, chalked up Cuomo’s address to a recognition of that changing dynamic with Democrats now in charge of all levers of state government.

“I think he’s looking to get off to a fast start,” Thiele told The Point. “There’s a pent-up demand for a lot of progressive proposals. Whether it’s campaign finance reform, women’s reproductive health rights, there’s a long list of things so there’s a need for a fast start.”

Thiele said advocates want to know what measures Cuomo is going to prioritize.

“Everybody wants to be first,” Thiele said. “This is a way for the governor to let people know, hey, you’re on the list, and we’re doing that early.”

Cuomo’s agenda included a batch of voting and election reforms, new gun control measures, tax relief for the middle class, passage of the Dream Act and congestion pricing, and environmental measures like getting all electricity from renewable sources by 2040. Is such an agenda possible within 100 days?

“He may just be able to do it, with a lot of these things,” said Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove).

After all, it’s never where you start but how you finish that matters in Albany.

Michael Dobie

Talking Point

Zeldin has alternative to gov't shutdown

If no one on Capitol Hill is discussing passing a short-term stopgap spending measure to avoid a partial government shutdown, why is there so much discussion about it?

Probably because a short-term budget deal is always derided as the worst possible idea, until the moment when it’s the only one left on the table.

Rep. Lee Zeldin told The Point Monday that he does see a better way out that would let both sides win and approve a budget for nine departments and agencies that will run out of money Friday if no deal is inked. “President Trump wants $5 billion for a wall, or what I think is much better described as 'border security' funding,” Zeldin said, “and the Democrats are offering, what, $1.6 billion? It seems like, if they agree to give him that amount or something like it and commit to two or three years of funding at that level or close to it, he could call it $5 billion, Democrats could say they held the line and everyone could declare victory and go home.”

Zeldin mentioned the idea of a two-week deal that has been floating around, but pointed out the timing would be precarious. “That would mean the funding would run out almost simultaneously with the Democrats taking over the chamber when we come back in January,” he said.

He and his chamber mates are scheduled to go back to D.C. Wednesday, just two days before the money runs dry, although some Republicans who are in their last days in Congress could reportedly be no-shows. (Zeldin said he knows of only one GOPer who has said his goodbyes and vowed not to return.)

And if the week crawls on and no long-term deal emerges, a short-term one, as the only alternative to a shutdown, may start to look less like bad governance and more like masterful politics to members of both parties looking for a peaceful and joyous Christmas in their home districts.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

A new holiday special

Quick Points

Not-so-social media

  • A report prepared for the U.S. Senate shows Russia used every major social media platform to influence the 2016 election in favor of President Donald Trump, and that Google and Facebook failed to share all information on the Kremlin’s campaign requested by investigators. Obstruction?
  • “He lies to fit the situation he’s in,” said Rudy Giuliani. He was talking about former fixer Michael Cohen, but could have just as easily been describing a person they both have had as a client, President Donald Trump.
  • Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt says Democrats about to take control of the House should legislate not investigate as he warned against starting impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. So said a man who voted to impeach then-President Bill Clinton and never tried to stop countless GOP investigations of Hillary Clinton.
  • After Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney lobbied for months to be President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, some Congressional conservatives are calling him a sellout who prioritizes career advancement over principle. Sounds like he’ll fit right in.
  • Reacting to a Republican judge in Texas ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, actor and frequent Barack Obama critic James Woods tweeted that “Obama’s legacy would at last be wiped clean. It would be as if he never existed.” Funny, Woods’ acting career has been moving in that direction for years.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says if rap music cannot be banned or stopped, then “we must lead it or direct it.” Um, does he understand what rap is?

Michael Dobie

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