Governor Cuomo’s still-exploding nursing-home scandal has finally galvanized Democratic legislators to challenge his authority.
It’s one logical response to an avalanche of ugly news: Attorney General Letitia James’ scathing report on the undercount of nursing-home and long-care facility deaths, the even-more-damning Empire Center analysis that shows the March 25 did indeed lead to hundreds more deaths, top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa’s admission that the coverup was completely intentional, plus Cuomo’s unhinged attack on Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim and his pathtetic “I will fight the liars” press conference Friday.
Republican leaders in both the Assembly and state Senate have called out Cuomo for months over the COVID-19-related nursing-home deaths and his arbitrary, jobs-killing lockdowns. Now Democrats are on board. Last week, a Democratic Gang of 14 senators co-signed a letter demanding the revocation of Cuomo’s emergency powers while Senate GOP Leader Rob Ortt called for a special session to immediately strip the gov of that near-total authority.
Nine Assembly Democrats have joined embattled Assemblyman Kim in seeking to revoke Cuomo’s emergency powers, now set to expire April 30. Like Kim, they believe that Cuomo abused that authority with his arbitrary mandates and restrictions on social gatherings as well as obscuring the true death toll in the state’s care homes.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) is trying to split the difference. She’s poised to pass legislation creating a bipartisan commission to review Gov. Cuomo’s emergency directives — not take away his ability to issue them.
It’s not a rebuke of the gov’s handling of the pandemic, she says: “I consider it a reality of where we are now. We are not trying to slow anything down. We want to get the information before you do it.” Don’t be surprised if any commission takes until April 30 to report back.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bx) is even worse, we hear: He’s apparently set to protect Cuomo, and even likely to go along with the governor’s request to extend his emergency powers well past April 30.
It has been nearly a year since the Legislature abdicated its role as a co-equal branch of government as the pandemic began to hit. Lawmakers were likely relieved that he’d shoulder the blame alone if anything went wrong.
Now the deaths of thousands of their constituents’ elderly loved ones has shaken at least some of them from their slumber, but going down the road towards impeachment (as Assembly Republicans want) is a bridge too far for most Democrats, at least for now.
Complicating matters, the loudest Democratic voices slamming Cuomo tend to be the hard-left progressives, who’ve long resented his refusal to go along with their most extreme demands. But a decade of this governor’s high-handedness — including what many see as his double-dealing when it comes to legislative pay hikes —has left many others privately seething, as well.
It’s all well and good that lawmakers are pushing new measures to tighten rules for the homes, and calling for hearings on Team Cuomo’s handling of them. But that’s not enough.
While it is too late for those who were lost, nixing those emergency powers would show some spine, and provide a measure of solace for the still-grieving families.
And legislators with any conscience absolutely must revolt if their leaders try to go along with any extension of those powers — holding up the budget if he tries to sneak it through in some midnight move.
Only utter cowards would leave getting at the truth to the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which have reportedly opened probes into Team Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic.
Rank-and-file legislators need to show they’re willing to actually do their jobs, even if their leaders want to keep playing footsie with a governor who has blood on his hands.