How do you defuse a hostage situation? That’s pretty much what Andrew Cuomo has set up in his fight with Congress to get bailout money to close the budget gaps opened wider by the COVID-19 lockdown. Earlier this week, the governor of New York told a reporter that the people who came to the state to lend a hand in the crisis would have to pay state income taxes, because the budget deficit would prevent him from approving “subsidies” to the people who came from around the country to help New Yorkers.

That level of ingratitude and outright greed at the highest level of New York hasn’t gotten as much attention as it should, but it has gotten some notice. On yesterday’s The Five on Fox News Channel, former White House press secretary Dana Perino called it “disgusting,” and accused Cuomo of using good-hearted Americans as political “pawns”:

“I remember when the governor made this plea and he said, ‘Please, if you come to New York — we need additional workers, health care workers, nurses, doctors, please come to New York.’ And so many people answered the call,” Perino said. “And now he says, ‘Thank you for coming … You’re going to actually have to pay taxes on what we are paying you.’

“They’re getting paid. But it wasn’t easy to come to New York, to the epicenter where they’re putting themselves in harm’s way,” Perino added. “And then what he said today is, ‘If the federal government could help us out with some of our state losses, then maybe I wouldn’t have to do this, but sorry. Because the government won’t do it. I have to do this to you.’ That is wrong.” …

“Using [health care workers] as pawns in this scheme, terrible behavior,” Perino said. “That’s disgusting.”

If Cuomo thinks he can use volunteers as hostages for his dealings with Congress, Forbes’ Patrick Gleason points out that Congress can effectively free these hostages without much trouble. They already have a mechanism in place to negate Cuomo’s threat to suck cash out of the people who rallied to New Yorkers’ sides called the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, which would prevent states from imposing income-tax filing requirements on anyone who works for 30 days or less outside their home state.

Best of all, this is a bill originating with House Democrats:

The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, reintroduced in January by Congressman Hank Johnson (R-Ga.), whose office describes the measure as bipartisan and bicameral reform that “simplifies state income tax requirements for employees who spend 30 days or less working in states outside the state of their residence.”

“The tax system is already too complicated as it is,” Congressman Johnson said. “This important bipartisan legislation simplifies the tax code to help Americans who work across multiple jurisdictions from being taxed by state and local governments other than the places in which they live or perform duties over an extended period.”

The Mobile Workforce Tax Simplification Act, in addition to the benefits described by Representative Johnson, would undercut Governor Cuomo’s aforementioned demand by establishing “a uniform threshold where workers could be required to file and businesses to withhold tax only after an employee has worked more than 30 days in a state,” according to the statement announcement the bill’s reintroduction.

This reform does not include three categories: professional athletes, professional entertainers, and certain prominent public figures. In short, this bill would ensure that rank and file business travelers, or out-of-state emergency health volunteers, aren’t hit with a surprise income tax bill.

It’s not clear whether this would stand up in court, as states make their own decisions on taxation. Congress would have a pretty strong argument, however, that laws such as these intrude on their constitutional prerogative to regulate interstate commerce, and that they have the authority and jurisdiction to limit just how far states can go in imposing these taxes. Given the absurdly broad definition the federal courts have given “interstate commerce” (Wickard v Filburn, and others), this bill shouldn’t have much trouble passing judicial muster at all.

Will Democrats expedite consideration of the MWSITS Act when they’re trying to get Cuomo his cash, though? Senate Republicans could force the issue by passing it in a standalone bill and dare Nancy Pelosi not to act on it. That would force her to defend Cuomo’s hostage-taking, and that’s not likely to be popular with members of her own caucus whose constituents just got screwed by Cuomo.

If Congress can find a way to rebuke Cuomo for being a jackass ingrate, though, it should. Especially when they along with everyone else keeps blathering about being in this together. If we’re in this together, why is Cuomo taxing the people who only wanted to put that motto into action?