Monday marked a new week for Governor Andrew Cuomo, but a nagging topic remained: a Justice Department probe into nursing home deaths during the pandemic, a probe he says that goes back several months.
"We have had requests for the DOJ since last year, when President Trump accused Democratic states of the COVID problem,” Cuomo said at his daily press briefing. “The inquiry has been going on since last August. We have complied with the inquiry and we will continue to."
Democrats in both houses of the legislature have been considering rescinding the emergency powers they granted Governor Cuomo last year to fight the pandemic.
Republicans say Democrats should not have allowed Cuomo to govern this long by executive order, and they should re-establish their position as a co-equal branch of government.
“Everybody here has been speaking about rescinding the governor’s powers because that really has nothing to do with this latest scandal,” said Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt. “Those should have been rescinded anyways. Those should have been rescinded because the legislature was elected to do a job that it really wasn’t and hasn’t been doing.”
Senate Democrats, who hold the majority, have drafted a bill to amend Cuomo’s powers. It would establish a ten-member commission with veto power to review all of the governor’s directives, including limits on gatherings and the suspension of laws.
But Assembly Democrats met Monday to consider those changes and sources say most were not particularly impressed with the Senate plan. They were skeptical of creating a new commission, and during a sometimes heated conference, some recommended just letting the emergency powers expire at the end of April, as they are already set to do.
But the Senate did move forward with passing a package of 10 reform bills to address the nursing home crisis.
“We have out together a few pieces of legislation that deal with some of the issues we have observed,” said Democratic State Senator Gustavo Rivera, the chair of the Health Committee. “And this one today, one of the ones that we are going to be considering, including the one we are looking at right now, deals with data.”
But it’s not clear if Assembly Democrats will even pass the Senate’s bills.
Governor Cuomo has introduced his own set of nursing home reforms, which he’d like to see included in the budget due at the end of next month. The Assembly could wind up going along with Cuomo’s plan rather than the Senate’s.