Written by Jason Subik in the Fulton County Express on May 8, 2020
FULTON COUNTY — During a conference call with reporters April 30, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, called on the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to pass a bill providing more funding for New York state and its local governments.
But the congresswoman also took time to blast Gov. Andrew Cuomo for politicizing the issue of reopening summer camps.
During his daily coronavirus press conference, Cuomo responded to a question from a reporter about a letter written by Stefanik and other state and local leaders asking the state to provide guidance to help local officials create plans for how to open summer camps.
Cuomo responded that Stefanik and the rest of New York state’s congressional delegation should work harder to pass federal legislation to help New York state handle a projected $13 billion deficit in order to protect the jobs of teachers, police, firefighters and other first responders.
Cuomo said the federal government has done nothing to help states overcome losses in tax revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“You know how much they gave New York state to do any of the things we’re talking about? Zero. Zilch. Nada,” Cuomo said. Stefanik called Cuomo’s callout of her a “disgraceful political act” and said Cuomo neglects to mention the $7 billion in aid the federal government has provided New York state as a result of the pandemic, and that New York state had a projected $6 billion deficit before the pandemic.
But she agreed the federal government must do more to help the state.
“The New York congressional delegation has been united in advocating for additional funding for the state and local governments,” she said. “We believe as a delegation that’s important, and we are committed to delivering that on top of the $7 billion we already have delivered.”
Stefanik said it was wrong for Cuomo to politicize the summer camp issue.
“For the governor to take an issue as simple and as basic as asking for public health guidance for summer camps and use it to politically attack me by name, it’s disgraceful,” she said. Stefanik has broken with Republican leadership in Washington in the past, opposing President Trump on issues like his tax cut, his use of trade tariffs and some of his foreign policy choices like withdrawing U.S. support for the Christian Kurds in Syria. She has also been among the few Republicans in the House of Representatives to support increased election security measures as a response to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Over the past year, however, Stefanik has vaulted into the national spotlight as one of Trump’s most ardent supporters during the impeachment process. Trump has named Stefanik the co-chair for his New York state presidential re-election campaign.
On April 30, Stefanik acknowledged the Republican-led U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report released April 21 that concluded the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign with the goal of helping to elect Trump to the presidency.
She once again called on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to allow a vote on her election security bill.
“Of course I wish the senate would pass the bi-partisan bill on election security that I supported — that I am the lead Republican on — but that’s a broken record sometimes with the bills that we’ve passed out of the House that never get taken up in the Senate,” she said. Stefanik said her role on the House committee that oversees U.S. Cyber Command has offered her the opportunity to push for enhanced security against Internet-based Russian misinformation campaigns, as well as potential interference from other foreign countries such as China, Iran and North Korea. She said the U.S. does spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fund cybersecurity efforts and she believes public health concerns regarding the 2020 election must also be addressed to ensure a safe and secure election. When asked whether she could play any role as Trump’s New York state co-chair to dissuade Russian interference in the 2020 election, she did not address the question.
Stefanik said she is the ranking Republican on the House Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee where she has engaged in discussions regarding potential problems with the U.S. supply chain with respect to food and medicine. “We are overly reliant right now upon China based on the manufacturing of lifesaving drugs, and the same goes for testing supplies and ventilators,” she said. “The [agriculture] industry of course is in different circumstances. We have an oversupply of dairy products right now, you’re hearing about the devastating dumping of milk we need to address with the U.S. [Dept. of Agriculture] to make sure there are reimbursements not only for the milk that has been dumped, but to enable [farmers] to cut through some of the regulations to use those dairy products to help fill the food pantries and all of the important feeding programs when so many families are in very difficult sets of circumstances.” Stefanik said she is very concerned about the mental health of many of the people who’ve been forced out of their jobs due to the social distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. She said the isolation of people is leading to a “tragic underbelly” for the crisis, leading to higher rates of domestic abuse and substance abuse.
“I’m signing-on to bi-partisan letters requesting increased funding for behavioral health,” she said.
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