WASHINGTON - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed President Donald Trump on Wednesday to embrace a massive infrastructure spending plan to get Americans back to work in the face of the coronavirus commerce shutdowns.
"This is one of the things I want to talk to the president about," Cuomo said before heading to the White House. "You want to reopen the economy. Let's do something creative, let's do it fast, let's put Americans back to work" to build and repair roads, bridges and rails.
Later, Cuomo, a Democrat, rejected claims by some Republican lawmakers that massive federal aid to state and city governments is not needed, calling it an "un-American response."
"If you cut state and local governments," Cuomo said, "how does that help the nation recover? There is no nation without the states."
The U.S. coronavirus death toll is just short of 100,000, by far the biggest national total across the globe. Its world-leading economy has been shattered, with more than 38 million workers laid off, nearly a quarter of the country's labor force.
All 50 state governors have begun to ease stay-at-home restrictions and reopen businesses. But 20 states reported an increase in new coronavirus cases in the week ending last Sunday, even as the number of cases fell in Cuomo's state, for weeks the hardest hit in the country.
Trump has often said he wants more infrastructure spending. But several other issues, including the current fight against the coronavirus pandemic, have taken precedence in Congress, sidelining infrastructure initiatives.
Several state governors have called for more financial help from Washington to rebuild their economies. But whether a politically divided Congress and Trump can agree on a new spending plan is uncertain.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has passed a new $3 trillion plan that partly would bolster beleaguered state government budgets. But Republican lawmakers have said they want to assess the effect of previous spending packages aimed at helping the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic before agreeing to a new one.
Trump, often criticized for downplaying the threat of the coronavirus in early 2020, continued to defend his response to the pandemic in new Twitter comments Wednesday.
"The Radical Left Lamestream Media, together with their partner, the Do Nothing Democrats, are trying to spread a new narrative that President Trump was slow in reacting to Covid 19. Wrong, I was very fast, even doing the Ban on China long before anybody thought necessary!" he said.
He also tweeted, "We pass 15,000,000 Tests Today, by far the most in the World. Open Safely!"
But he made no mention of the rising death toll, which some projections say could reach 140,000 in the U.S. by early August. Instead, Trump attacked political opponents and assailed Twitter for flagging two of his tweets about mail-in voting as inaccurate.
Trump for weeks has touted the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive treatment for coronavirus and says he took the medication. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious-disease expert, voiced new concerns Wednesday about its use, saying it is not effective against COVID-19.
Fauci's comments about hydroxychloroquine echoed the findings of recent studies questioning its value to prevent or cure the virus.
France recently banned the drug for treatment of COVID-19. Fauci told CNN, "I'm not so sure it should be banned (by the U.S.), but clearly the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it."