Legislature Votes to Strip Governor of His Executive Order Powers
WINDSOR TERRACE — As the scandal surrounding Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued to escalate, the State Legislature voted on March 5 to strip him of his power to unilaterally issue executive orders to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State Senate voted 43-20 for a bill that would prevent Cuomo from issuing new executive orders without the approval of lawmakers, However, the same bill would permit the governor to extend executive orders he has already issued. The Assembly approved the bill by a 107-43 vote.
The fast-moving scandal has seen several new developments in recent days, including a call from Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for the governor to resign. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie issued a statement that did not go as far as Stewart -Cousins in calling for Cuomo’s resignation but questioned whether the governor is capable of leading the state amid the scandal.
Republicans in the assembly are moving forward with an impeachment resolution against the Democratic governor over his handling of nursing home deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic and the allegations of sexual harassment from former staff members and others. The resolution is expected to be formally introduced on Tuesday.
But Cuomo also received some support from rank-and-file Democrats in the assembly. A group of 21 women, all Democrats, issued a statement against the idea of resignation. Instead, the lawmakers stated, the investigation led by Attorney General Letitia James should conclude before any decisions are made.
And two more women came forward with claims of sexual harassment against the governor – bringing the total number of accusers to five.
Ana Liss, a policy aide who worked for Cuomo from 2013 to 2015, accused him of inappropriate behavior. Karen Hinton, who worked as a press aide when Cuomo was the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton Administration, accused him of acting inappropriately.
Facing mounting pressure from public officials calling on him to step down amid sexual harassment allegations leveled at him by five different women, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has no intention of quitting his job.
“I’m not going to resign. I’m going to do the job the people elected me to do,” Cuomo said at a COVID-19 briefing on March 3.
Cuomo was asked about calls for his resignation that have been made in recent days by elected officials.
“Some politicians will always play politics. I was not elected by politicians. I was elected by the people of the state of New York,” he said.
Cuomo said he was cooperating with an investigation launched by Attorney General Letitia James into the sexual harassment allegations and asked that New Yorkers wait until the results of that probe before judging him.
Cuomo has also been under fire after a report came out from Attorney General Letitia James revealed that his administration undercounted the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
The Democratic governor, who had been facing the possibility of being stripped of the COVID-19 emergency powers granted to him by the State Legislature in 2020, said he worked out a deal with legislative leaders.
The deal would enable him to hold onto his emergency powers — but with a caveat.
“We have an agreement on a bill where the legislature can repeal any executive order that I issue with 50 percent,” he said, meaning that a simple majority vote in the State Senate and Assembly would be able to repeal an executive order.
On March 2, a day before Cuomo held his COVID-19 briefing, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced that they had reached an agreement on a bill to strip Cuomo of his emergency powers.
Under the emergency powers, the governor had the ability to unilaterally order non-essential businesses and institutions to shut down, shift resources from one hospital to another and implement new policies at nursing homes.
The emergency powers were set to expire on April 30. The agreement Cuomo reached with legislative leaders would allow the powers to continue past that date and continue until the federal government declared that the pandemic emergency was over.
Republicans charged that the deal meant that Cuomo wasn’t being stripped of his powers at all.
Councilman Joseph Borelli, a Republican representing parts of Staten Island, tweeted that Democratic leaders in the legislature “are extending the powers of the scandal-plagued governor, but got a full media cycle on how they are repealing them.”
Cuomo spent several minutes answering questions about the sexual harassment allegations against him.
Two of the accusers who charged that he made unwanted advances toward them, Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett, worked for him. The third accuser, Anna Ruch, did not work in the state government. She told The New York Times she met Cuomo for the first time at a 2019 wedding and that he touched her back and asked if he could kiss her. She said she felt confused, shocked, and embarrassed by his behavior.
“You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture,” Cuomo said at the briefing. “It is my usual and customary way of greeting,” he said.
“But I also understand, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, was anyone offended by it? If they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he said.
“If they felt pain from it, I apologize,” the governor said.