Empire State Gears up to Fight GOP Health Bill

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio with members of the Cancer Action Network on Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital. (Adam Klasfeld/COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE).

MANHATTAN (CN) — Standing before a 500-strong crowd at an auditorium inside Mount Sinai Hospital, New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman vowed Monday to take the Trump administration to court if Republicans manage to radically scale back the U.S. health care system.

Only a week has passed since Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and John McCain pronounced the attempted repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act “dead” to reporters from the Associated Press.

Should Senate Republicans figure out a way to revive it, however, New York Democrats planned a legal counteroffensive to bury it again.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schneiderman and others vowed legal action before a capacity crowd at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Stern Auditorium in Harlem on Monday afternoon.

“My brothers and sisters, I’ve developed a bit of a reputation since January as a guy who sues Donald Trump and the federal government a lot,” Schneiderman said, to laughter in the auditorium.

The attorney general burnished that reputation starting shortly after Trump issued his travel ban executive orders, a little more than a week into his administration.

As families stranded at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport sued in opposition, Schneiderman took notice and joined their litigation. His office later filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting other lawsuits opposing the travel ban across the country, including in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Schneiderman also has pushed back against Trump’s environmental agenda, taking the administration to court for rolling back former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“Now my lawsuits against the Trump Administration may not have won me a lot of fans in Washington, but they’re not my concern,” he told the crowd. “You are.”

Filling up the auditorium to hear the speech were an array of unions, nonprofit groups and health care associations.

Members of the Service Employees International Union waved signs with block letters: “WE NEED HEALTHCARE, NOT CHAOS,” as the New York State Nurses Association brandished placards that said, “Standing with Governor Cuomo to Save NY’s Healthcare.”

Cuomo has been under fire in New York City, as subways, buses and trains have slowed to a crawl in what the governor called a “summer of hell,” a crisis that his critics contend came from his own neglect and underfunding of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

But if commuters have been simmering with resentment at Cuomo, their frustration was not on display on Monday.

Instead, their scorn went toward Republican New York Congressmen John Faso and Chris Collins, who sponsored an amendment that would deny federal Medicaid matching funds to the 57 counties outside of New York City unless the state picks up their share.

Borrowing an image from an old New York City hustle, Cuomo compared it to street-corner gambling with three shells and a pea.

“That’s an old-fashioned con game,” he said.

If passed, the amendment would cut an estimate $2.3 billion in federal funding from New York state.

The governor emphasized that the rest of the bill threatens even deeper cuts to Medicaid.

“It will cut $8 billion from Medicaid,” Cuomo said. “You know what that means? It means that we would bankrupt hospitals.”

This, the governor added, would have a global effect for institutions like Mount Sinai, one of the oldest and largest teaching hospitals in the United States.

Mayor de Blasio, whose rocky relationship with the governor is legendary, put those differences aside and stood behind the same podium to hit upon a theme the other speakers also touched upon: that the Republicans’ legislation was misnamed.

“This is not a health care bill,” he said. “It’s a wealth care bill.”

Since the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Republican bill will knock 23 million off insurance by 2026, many Democrats have warned thousands of newly uninsured people will die in service of tax cuts for the rich.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who announced plans to push for a Medicare-for-all system, has been particularly vocal about this projection, which Politifact called “mostly true.”

Shying away from numbers, de Blasio noted simply: “If this Senate bill passes, people will die.”

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