This story has been updated.
New York State Senate Republicans, and now, a growing number of Democratic Senators, are seeking a special session in an effort to remove Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers in the wake of the report into the underreporting of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes statewide.
Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt and members of the Republican Conference called on the Senate Majority to convene a special session and strip Cuomo of his emergency powers while calling for a thorough investigation into his administration. They were later joined by 14 Democratic senators.
- Related story - Top Republicans Call For Cuomo's Ouster After Top Aide Admits They Hid Nursing Home Data
“For months, my colleagues have been accused of playing politics when in reality, we are trying to get answers for the thousands of families who lost loved ones in nursing homes,” Ortt said.
“The leaked tape of the secret meeting held between administration officials and legislative Democrats confirms that not only did Cuomo’s office deliberately withhold information from the public and the Legislature, they did it to obstruct justice and dodge a federal investigation.”
Sen. Sue Serino, the ranking member of the Senate Aging Committee said that hiding the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers for political reasons is “Albany’s rock bottom.”
“This administration has shown a callous disregard for these vulnerable residents and their families for months, but this stunning admission is a horrific new low,” she said. “A full, independent investigation into the state’s handling of the COVID crisis in New York’s nursing homes needs to be launched immediately and any lawmaker who is not actively working to make that happen is complicit in the cover-up—period.”
According to the Republicans, the Senate has sought to remove Cuomo’s emergency powers 14 times, and each time, the state’s Democrats have voted against the amendment.
“The Legislature should immediately revoke the governor’s emergency powers as my Senate Republican colleagues and I have put forth amendments to do so for the past 14 session days so we can bring balance back to state government,” Sen. Jim Tedisco said. “The Legislature needs to pass stronger penalties to hold officials accountable for violating open government and the Freedom of Information Law, which I am drafting.
“If this information that’s been reported is accurate, then Governor Cuomo has totally lost the trust of the people he represents and has violated his oath of office. He should then resign or face impeachment and removal from office”
The Senate Republicans said they have “also called on their colleagues in the Majority for months to use their subpoena power to hold the Governor and the DOH accountable, but again, the Majority sat on their hands and did nothing.”
“The administration’s efforts to distort and cover up the true number of COVID-related deaths in New York nursing homes are outrageous,” Sen. Patrick Gallivan stated. “It is clear that a thorough investigation is needed to determine the true scope of this crisis and find out who was involved in misleading the public. Fear of being held accountable is not a reason to break the law.”
Though Cuomo has repeatedly called out the federal government for politicizing COVID-19 and the vaccine, Ortt said that it was the governor who was guilty of “playing political football.”
“It is more clear than ever who was really playing politics with this issue,” he said. “First, we must strip the governor of his executive powers, and then it is imperative that a full investigation be launched immediately.
“Justice needs to be sought for the grieving families,” Ortt added. “The governor needs to demand the immediate resignation of anyone involved in this cover-up, and if he was aware, he must be removed from office.”
During a Zoom call with state legislators, Melissa DeRosa, the Secretary to the Governor who found herself at the center of the controversy, said that the state is prepared to do better moving forward and will share more information to keep New Yorkers healthy during the pandemic.
“I was explaining that when we received the DOJ inquiry, we needed to temporarily set aside the Legislature's request to deal with the federal request first,” she stated. “We informed the houses of this at the time. We were comprehensive and transparent in our responses to the DOJ, and then had to immediately focus our resources on the second wave and vaccine rollout.
“As I said on a call with legislators, we could not fulfill their request as quickly as anyone would have liked,” she added. “But we are committed to being better partners going forward as we share the same goal of keeping New Yorkers as healthy as possible during the pandemic."
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