WASHINGTON — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has weighed in on the still-brewing federal battle over spending and immigration, agreeing with progressive Democrats that the party should draw a hard line and stop compromising with President Trump from winning a total victory on those issues.
Two days after Senate Democrats up for re-election this year forced the end of a three-day government shutdown, Cuomo posted an essay on Medium that essentially said Democrats must stop making such deals.
"Democrats in Washington must realize the 'old rules' of government are gone," Cuomo wrote. "Bipartisanship, good will, compromise and reasonableness are sadly not in this administration’s or Congress’ lexicon. This is a government of zealots and ideologues and their instinct is to demand total capitulation."
That being the case, Cuomo said: "Senate Democrats must adjust to this new reality and understand in this conflict there is only red and blue. There is no purple."
Cuomo's essay places him at the left end of the political debate over the future of 800,000 "Dreamers" – young people brought to America illegally by their parents. That's exactly where several other potential Democratic presidential candidates are, too. Seven of them, including Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, opposed the compromise that ended the shutdown, saying they couldn't vote for any legislation that didn't protect the Dreamers.
But Cuomo's no-retreat, no-surrender message stood in stark contrast to that of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, who backed the compromise. The deal included three weeks of government funding and a six-year renewal of the Children's Health Insurance Program in exchange for a Republican promise that the Senate will consider legislation that would give the Dreamers legal status.
"Over the weekend, and I’m very glad about this, a bipartisan group of moderate Senators from both parties came together in a very inspiring way," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "Their efforts led to the agreement between the Majority Leader and me that an immigration bill will receive fair consideration in a few weeks, the first time we’ve ever had that guarantee."
Schumer talked as if he saw compromise as the only way to solve the dispute over the soon-to-expire program that protects the Dreamers, which is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
"The same energy and spirit the bipartisan group put into forging a compromise this weekend ought to be committed to finding a bill on DACA that will pass this body with 60 votes," Schumer said.
That's how many votes legislation needs to move forward in the 100-member Senate. But in his essay, Cuomo saw that 60-vote requirement not as a reason for compromise, but as a tool Democrats could use to extract a better deal out of Republicans.
"They must stand united behind Senator Schumer and use the power of the 60 vote necessity," Cuomo wrote.
Cuomo indicated that President Trump won leverage for himself when he announced last year that he would end the Obama-era DACA program on March 5.
"The President ended DACA unilaterally to create legislative leverage and now has Democrats negotiating against themselves," Cuomo said.
He said Trump will try to divide the Democrats to force through a draconian anti-immigration reform plan that includes funding for a wall at the Mexican border, an end to a diversity visa lottery that brings in people from around the world and a curtailing of family reunification efforts, which Trump calls "chain migration."
Democrats have to unite to fight that agenda and guarantee a permanent solution for the Dreamers, the governor said.
"The Democrats are not powerless," he wrote. "They too have significant leverage and should shift their posture and negotiate from strength. The Senate’s need for 60 votes stops the President of the United States — period."