House Republican leaders on Wednesday slammed funding for New York in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill — claiming the cash is a “payout” unrelated to the pandemic for Democrats like Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The bill is expected to pass the House on Friday, though a fight over its $15 minimum wage hike is likely in the evenly divided Senate because two Democrats oppose it.
“Unfortunately this bill is too costly, too corrupt and too liberal. Only 9 percent goes to COVID,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said at a press conference.
“We watched the swamp come back to Washington: $100 million for a tunnel in Silicon Valley just outside of Speakers Pelosi’s district, or a bridge for Schumer, or money for schools that two-thirds of it cannot be spent until 2023.”
Schumer, the Senate majority leader, proudly touts winning federal funds for New York, and the bill includes $1.5 million for maintenance of the Seaway International Bridge between Massena, New York, and Canada.
Senate Democratic leadership aide said that Schumer wasn’t behind the bridge funding, which is intended to offset a drop in toll revenue. A document provided to The Post indicates the issue was raised last year by the Trump administration.
But McCarthy said that the bill, which can pass without any Republican support by a simple majority in the Senate — under budget reconciliation rules that avoid the usual 60 vote supermajority requirement — “seems like a payout for those who agree with them politically. It’s a corrupt system.”
Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, took aim at Cuomo specifically and referenced the scandal involving his administration’s coverup of deaths in New York nursing homes.
“If this package was truly about helping all Americans, why did they change the bipartisan budget formula used in all the other COVID packages to reward the blue state governors — one governor that’s being recalled [in California] and another governor that hid disclosure of how many deaths that were in nursing homes? They’re clearly rewarding their friends, their donors and their partisan agenda,” Smith said.
“If this package was not a progressive wish list, why does it spend hundreds of millions of dollars on pet projects in New York City and in San Francisco, like bridges and trailways?” Smith asked.
“If this package was clearly about crushing the virus, then why is less than 9 percent of all total spending actually used to put shots in people’s arms? If this package was clearly about making sure that schools open, why is it that less than 5 percent of all spending for schools will only be spent this year?”
He added: “We’re here today because Pelosi, Schumer and Biden decided to use a pandemic to push forward a progressive wishlist of items to reward political allies, friends and donors at the expense of the American working class.”
Smith did not specify New York City projects funded in the bill, but the city government is expected to receive about $5.6 billion if the bill passes. The state government would get about $12.7 billion, according to estimates released by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi defended funding for New York.
“New York was ground zero for COVID in the spring because the federal government kept flights from Europe open weeks after closing them to China — a fact federal public health experts now readily admit,” Azzopardi said.
“We’ve seen this show before, Republican congressmembers from other states opposed Sandy aid for New York — a fact they forgot when extreme weather caused destruction in their own back yards. It’s political and it’s disturbing.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and McCarthy also took aim at funds for California in the bill, arguing they are unnecessary at the Wednesday morning press conference.
“California in this bill would get over $40 billion in bailout money when they just announced they have a $10 billion surplus,” Scalise said.
McCarthy added: “I will tell you what California needs. They need to bring in whoever is doing West Virginia’s vaccination. Because [Gov.] Gavin Newsom is not doing it well… So what California needs is probably a new governor. The management is poor and the schools are shut down.”