The Republican and Democratic leaders of the National Governors Association on Wednesday blasted President Trump’s call for a “major investigation” of voter fraud as a distraction from the nation’s pressing matters, while raising concerns about the impacts of his health-care and immigration policies on their states.
At a Washington gathering, the chairman of the governors’ group, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), dismissed the president’s false claims of millions of illegal votes cast in November as “lunacy,” “something he made up” and “hocus-pocus.”
“That delegitimizes the president, it delegitimizes, embarrasses the United States of America in the world’s eyes that we had 5 million illegal votes — and it’s just plain not true,” McAuliffe later told The Washington Post.
“What I worry about is they use these types of comments and tactics to deny people’s access to the voting booths, make it harder for people to vote, to justify more stringent voter ID laws,” he said.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, the Republican vice chair of the governors’ association, said that there was no evidence of illegal voting in his state and that a federal investigation into voting fraud is not worth the government’s time.
“It’s over,” he said. “Let’s move on and let’s get to the job of governing this country.”
Their remarks came after largely positive “state of the states” addresses at the Newseum, where they stressed opportunities for cooperation between states and the federal government to shore up the nation’s infrastructure and cybersecurity.
Earlier in the day, both governors met with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to discuss health care. They said Ryan told them that states would be better suited to administer the federal Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, while reassuring them that the health-care system would stabilize after the repeal of the federal health-care law.
McAuliffe told the gathering at the Newseum that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act combined with converting Medicaid to block grants would hurt the states.
“There has been no shortage of heated political rhetoric on this issue, but I do feel confident speaking of my colleagues when I say that repealing the Affordable Care Act without offering an adequate replacement will have far-reaching consequences for our states and the people who live there,” McAuliffe said in his address.
Virginia stands to lose $300 million over the next two years with the law’s repeal and if Medicaid is turned over to the states, McAuliffe said.
Sandoval said he welcomed any federal revisions that would give states “greater flexibility” to meet the health needs of their residents.
But he and McAuliffe questioned the wisdom of Trump’s Wednesday orders to begin construction on a Mexican border wall and to explore ways to limit funding to “sanctuary cities” that do not enforce federal immigration policies.
“I don’t want to see anyone punished,” Sandoval said. “I’ve always believed in gates versus fences.”
McAuliffe said Ryan has also reassured him that Congress will relax automatic federal defense spending cuts stemming from sequestration. That would be welcome news in Virginia, home to large military bases, defense agencies and contractors.
But he said Virginia’s economy could suffer as a result of the Trump administration’s trade policies and freeze on hiring federal employees, many of whom live in Northern Virginia and elsewhere throughout the state.
Nearly two-thirds of Virginia’s trade involves countries that had signed on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, McAuliffe said. Trump on Monday signed an order withdrawing from the deal crafted under the Obama administration, and China is now negotiating its own trade blocs.
“We can’t be protectionist in this country,” said McAuliffe, who has gone on dozens of trade missions since taking office in 2014. “We can’t sell our products to just Americans. We have to sell on a global marketplace.”