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Cuomo, in D.C., lobbies against health bill, for transportation funding

WASHINGTON — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday made a rare appearance in the U.S. Capitol to meet with fellow Democrats in the New York congressional delegation, pressing lawmakers to continue to fight Republican health care legislation while pushing for increased infrastructure investment.

Cuomo met for nearly an hour with congressional Democrats in a Capitol conference room, but the issues discussed largely affect the entire state or the downstate region. Federal disaster funding for the flood-damaged Lake Ontario shoreline came up only in passing, said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, the dean of the state's congressional delegation and a Democrat from Fairport who organized the meeting.

"We had a very good conversation. Many of the issues that are now being decided on in Washington will have a dramatic effect on New York State," Cuomo said, emerging from the meeting.

Most notably, the Republican health care bill would cause 2.7 million New Yorkers to lose their health insurance while costing the state $7 billion a year.

"There's no way we could possibly make that up," the governor said.

Much of the discussion focused on infrastructure. Cuomo was set to meet later in the day with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in part to discuss a new rail tunnel between New York City and New Jersey.

The Obama administration had struck a deal in which the federal government would spend $10 billion on that tunnel while New York and New Jersey would kick in $5 billion apiece. But that deal has been in limbo since President Trump, a Republican, was inaugurated in January.

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Cuomo wrote to Trump in May to discuss problems at New York's Penn Station, where repair work threatened to create what the governor called "a summer of hell."

Trump never replied to Cuomo's letter, but the governor said he wasn't concerned.

"The president has a lot of things going on, right?" Cuomo said.

Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, said lawmakers at the meeting also spent plenty of time discussing recent problems on the aging New York City subway system.

The state's Republican House members were not invited to the meeting.

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A spokeswoman for Republican Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence said the congressman would have liked to see the governor to tell him how he can cut the state's Medicaid budget so that counties will no longer have to pay for a share of it. Collins and Rep. John Faso, a Republican from Kinderhook, have proposed an amendment that would bar upstate New York counties from being charged for a share of Medicaid, but Cuomo has objected vehemently, saying the state can't afford the additional costs.

"The Congressman was sorry to miss the Governor," said Sarah Minkel, the Collins spokesperson. "It would have been a great opportunity for him to show the Governor in less than five minutes where to cut Albany's bloated government to pay for the historic Collins Faso property tax cut."

That prompted the governor's spokesman, Rich Azzopardi, to note that Collins' amendment now appears to be dead.

"It's sad that even when Chris Collins' three-card Monte game blows up in his face – again – he is still hell bent on hurting the people he's elected to serve," Azzopardi said.

Of course, with no Republicans in the room, the meeting of Democrats proceeded in a spirit of unanimity.

"I think that we're aligned on the health care issue and the transportation issues," Higgins said.

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