Cuomo to Trump: Let's make a deal on our DMV access ... maybe?

“I’m calling their bluff,” Andrew Cuomo told WAMC this morning, but who’s blinking first? Usually it’s the one seeking the negotiation, and the New York governor had to request the meeting after the Department of Homeland Security cut off the state’s residents from its trusted traveler programs. DHS argued that a new law barring access to the state’s DMV records made it impossible to verify eligibility for New York residents, along with their decision to issue licenses and IDs to those already illegally in the US.

CBS News reports that Cuomo remains defiant, saying that he will “never give them access” except on a case-by-case basis:

Politico heard something a little different in the full interview. It sounded more like a Monty Hall play than a defiant thumb-nosing:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump plan to meet Thursday to discuss the federal government’s new ban on New Yorkers enrolling in expedited border crossing programs, and Cuomo says he’s willing to negotiate.

“I’m going to meet with the president tomorrow,” Cuomo said Wednesday on Long Island News Radio. “He offered a meeting, the earliest availability was tomorrow, and I took him up on it.” …

“I’ll give you what I want — you want access to our database, our DMV database for trusted travelers? You can have it,” he said in the radio interview.

Cuomo is not proposing “unfettered access,” his office clarified later — he would simply let DHS obtain the records for people applying for the trusted traveler programs. That’s a subset of people that presumably contains no undocumented immigrants, those the data sharing restrictions were designed to protect.

The difference between the two takes is probably (although coincidentally) the difference in the way Cuomo will approach this. He’ll talk tough in public to bolster his reputation as a tough opponent of Trump, and then try to sweet-talk Trump in private to get a concession on this issue. Regardless of how he presents this, Cuomo knows that New Yorkers who get locked out of these programs will get angrier every time they travel without the conveniences they afford. They might get mad at Trump; they’ll definitely blame Cuomo and New York Democrats for provoking the fight just to pander on illegal immigration.

That’s not Cuomo’s biggest problem here, though. What leverage does he even have in these negotiations? If he thinks Trump has some incentive to compromise, Cuomo’s simply spending too much time in the bubble. Trump lost New York by 23 points in 2016; so what if he loses it by 30 this year? He’s not going to pull Cuomo’s chestnuts out of the fire just to lose by 18 instead of 23.

Trump is putting these policies into place to shift political costs in the other direction, which is precisely the reason Cuomo’s asking for a meeting. States and cities have adopted sanctuary-city policies with ease to pander to their progressive voters in large part because the federal government hasn’t imposed any consequences for their choices. The only way to curtail that is to start imposing those consequences, and to stick to them.

So what will these negotiations look like? Probably a lot like this. Hope Cuomo brings the license fee along with him. (NSFW – Language warning)

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David Strom 3:31 PM on March 27, 2023