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GOP Effort To Strip Cuomo’s Executive Power Fizzles

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool)

Republicans’ bluster in the state Capitol on Monday fizzled as no arguments were made on the state Legislature floor to repeal Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive powers.

The only opportunity to do so came during a debate over A.2037, legislation which requires the most recent rating of every nursing home assigned pursuant to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, otherwise known as a CMS rating, be prominently displayed on the home page of the department’s website and at each nursing home facility.

Earlier in the day, legislative Republicans held a news conference to announce plans to introduce hostile amendments on the Senate and Assembly floor to end Cuomo’s emergency authority. The move came after 14 Senate Democrats had said they would support stripping Cuomo of his executive authority — those 14 votes combined with 20 Republicans in the chamber would have been enough Senate votes.

Senate Republicans made their argument on the floor of the Senate. Sen. Rob Ortt, R-Lockport and Senate minority leader, argued that legislation proposed by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi to strip Cuomo of his executive authority should be allowed to be considered when the Senate was considering another piece of legislation.

“Yes, it is agreed we need to review nursing home policies and do our job, but all these things we’re passing today don’t mean anything as long as the governor retains his emergency powers because he can simply override those by executive order and therein lies the problem,” Ortt said. “It is high time this body gets back to a coequal branch of government. This is about restoring the legislature to a coequal branch of government. It’s about being able to provide oversight and accountability of an executive who has shown gross disrespect for every member of this body — Democrat and Republican — and more importantly has shown disrespect for the people that we represent.”

The Democrats who have expressed frustration with Cuomo did not vote with the Republicans, and the amendment attempt failed in a party line vote. Democrats blasted Republicans on the Senate floor for their attempt to force the vote.

“I listened with amusement as Sen. Rath was giving his remarks,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria. “I know Sen. Rath is new here, but for those of us who have been around a little bit longer I want to give a little bit of history. The Republicans were in the majority in this chamber for most of the last decade, and there was no group that was more in this governor’s pocket than the Republicans in the state Senate over that time. Not one subpoena ever issued, not one aggressive pushback against his policies as long as you were the ones cutting the deals. So now we’re sitting here actually doing something, actually making reforms to his policies, and the criticism comes. It’s grossly political. This majority needs to be commended for the steps we are taking to create this oversight and there’s more to come after today, you can assure yourselves of that.”

Assembly Republicans didn’t get to make a real argument on Biaggi’s legislation. Assemblyman Michael Lawler, R-Pearl River, was critical of the Assembly leadership’s decision not to allow a vote on the legislation or bills that would have allowed Republicans to attempt to attach the proposal as an amendment. During Lawler’s statement, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, D-Corona and Assembly speaker, asked Lawler to limit his comments to the legislation.

“This seems to be the only opportunity of the day to address the issue of the day, which is the governor’s policies with respect to nursing homes and how it has impacted New Yorkers across this state,” Lawler said. “It is shameful, shameful, what has happened in New York State and the 15,000 people who have died in nursing homes due to the policies of our governor. This bill creates an opportunity to bring accountability for nursing homes in New York state and to provide transparency in New York state for our residents, for those families who died in nursing homes. It is something that is critical, and as the previous speaker alluded to, if we want to bring accountability and transparency back to New York state government then we need to return to regular order and reign in the governor’s executive emergency powers and do so today and do so immediately and stop hiding behind procedural matters and get to the heart of what’s wrong and that is unilateral control by one person and this chamber not acting as a coequal branch of government.”

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