Governor Andrew Cuomo is now facing the anger of the legislature after he released new information this month which showed nursing home deaths from the coronavirus were much higher than previously disclosed.
On Monday, the governor admitted during a lengthy news conference that he knowingly withheld that information from the legislature. Now, lawmakers are getting closer to rescinding Cuomo’s emergency powers, something the governor does not want.
"I have taken hundreds of actions. The legislature can reverse any action that I take," Cuomo said. "Not even by a bill, just by passing by 50% of the Assembly and the Senate. They’ve never reversed a single action."
The unprecedented emergency authority was granted to Cuomo last year to fight the pandemic, and sources say Senate Democrats are working on a new bill to take them away.
If they don’t, Senate Republicans may try and force a vote next week through a procedure known as a "hostile amendment." It’s something they have tried several times already, only this time they may have enough Democratic votes to succeed.
"I’m not sure what my fellow colleagues on the other side are actually going to do," said state Sen. Jim Tedisco, whose upstate district covers the entirety of Fulton and Hamilton counties, and part of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer counties. "I know some of them are talking the talk, but that’s always the question. When we get to the floor and there is a hostile amendment by us, as we’ve put one on every single day we’ve been in session, because we’ve said how important it is now close to a year to bring our powers back and be a check on this governor."
Last March, shortly after the first coronavirus case was discovered in New York, the Cuomo administration drafted a bill for emergency authority, but some warned against it even then.
"The governor is being given far more power and authority than he’s ever had," then-state Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan said at the time. "The governor is being given far more power than he deserves."
As for Cuomo’s attempt Monday to blame opponents for pushing bad information on nursing home deaths, members of his own party say Cuomo needs to take responsibility for what they call a cover-up.
Last July, the Cuomo administration issued a 34-page report exonerating itself by claiming its policies did not contribute to a higher number of nursing home fatalities.
"Whether it’s that July report, whether it’s that ridiculous book the governor wrote to pat himself on the back while we were still in the middle of the pandemic, it just points to someone who lets brain and guts rule his decision making," said Gustavo Rivera, the state Senate's health committee chair. "And if he just had a little bit of heart and some ears, then maybe we could get some better policy out of this whole thing.”
The legislature is not in session this week, but is expected back Monday afternoon, which would likely be the earliest they would move to rescind the governor’s emergency powers. Ten separate bills to address the crisis are currently moving through the legislature.