NEW YORK — In a pushback against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic state lawmakers are strongly considering revoking broad emergency powers they granted him last year to manage the pandemic. The move comes in the wake of the governor’s top aide privately admitting this week that the Cuomo administration intentionally withheld statistics about COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents.
In an online conversation with state lawmakers, Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa said the administration “froze” any release of the statistics out of fear that they could spur an investigation by Donald Trump’s Justice Department. DeRosa’s remarks were first reported in the New York Post.
According to a transcript later released by the governor’s office, DeRosa said: “Basically, we froze because then we were in a position where we weren't sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys and what we start saying was going to be used against us and we weren't sure if there was going to be an investigation.”
On Friday morning, members of the Democratic majority in the State Assembly held a closed virtual conference to discuss revoking the governor’s powers. Sources tell NY1 that there was no conclusion, but the majority of members argued in favor of modifying or rolling back Cuomo’s powers, while others seemed more inclined to simply let them expire as they are scheduled to do at the end of April.
A minority countered that having more than 50 local health departments making different decisions wasn’t ideal, either.
Lawmakers from New York City expressed frustration over the governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio frequently being at odds during the pandemic and putting out competing and conflicting information, saying that some of the conflict could be avoided if Cuomo’s emergency powers were revoked.
Senate Democrats are meeting again Friday with 14 members already calling for the revocation of Cuomo’s powers.
The rumbling from the legislature comes after the Cuomo administration this month was forced to disclose information about the number of senior citizens who died in nursing homes after being pressed by State Attorney General Letitia James. The state admitted that close to 15,000 nursing home residents in New York died from COVID-19 – far higher than the 9,000 deaths than had been previously reported.
Cuomo was granted unprecedented authority by the legislature last March as the pandemic was raging across the state.