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Retribution planned for New York Congress members who voted for the tax bill

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s vowed to lead a campaign against the state’s Republican Congressional representatives in the 2018 elections, has spent the final weeks of 2017 feuding with them over their votes on the federal tax overhaul bill.

Cuomo has been saying for weeks that the overhaul would be “devastating” to New York’s finances and to many of its taxpayers, and he’s called Republican House members who support the plan “traitors” and “Benedict Arnolds.” 

The governor is particularly incensed over the loss of the deduction for state and local taxes, which harms people in relatively high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

In the hours leading up to the House vote, Cuomo stepped up his rhetoric.

In response to a reporter’s question, he said Democrats, including New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, would be “justified” if they threatened to shut down the government when the temporary spending measure runs out at the end of the week, if the tax bill passes.

“If the government is about to do a terrible thing, sometimes a shutdown is preferable,” Cuomo said.

The governor’s remarks drew a stinging rebuke from western New York Congressman Chris Collins, whom Cuomo has often singled out for criticism.

Collins, a supporter of the tax plan, called Cuomo a “Grinch” and said in a statement that many of his constituents will see $100 more in their monthly paychecks once the tax measure is passed. And he said the governor’s “thuggish” behavior would lead to seniors not getting their Social Security checks and the closure of federal parks.

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik voted against the bill, but she said in a statement that she blamed “Albany’s failed leadership and inability to rein in spending” as the root of the high taxes in the state.

Cuomo responded that the GOP congresswoman has a problem with the “facts” and said local property taxes, not state income taxes, are the problem. 

“However, that’s not what this bill is about at all, and she knows it,” Cuomo said. “The bill is raiding New York, is using New York taxpayers to finance a tax cut for other states.”

Cuomo said New York sends $48 billion more to the federal government than it gets back, and suggested that Stefanik work to get that money back for New Yorkers.

Union leaders also are angry over the bill’s passage.

Mario Cilento, president of the state’s AFL-CIO, said union members “will not forget” the four New York congressmen and women who voted for the bill: Collins, Tom Reed, John Katko and Claudia Tenney, calling it an act of “betrayal.”

“We’re not a one-issue movement,” said Cilento, who added the bill “deeply harms” working-class men and women. “But it’s hard to see a scenario where we won’t be active in those districts.”

Cuomo, as the voting was taking place, sent out a statement saying that voting for the tax overhaul is a “dereliction of duty” and that those who voted yes “should be voted out of office” and replaced with “someone who actually represents the interest of their constituents.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.