ALBANY — In the wake of lawmakers calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, both houses of state Legislature reached an agreement Tuesday to rescind the governor’s expanded spending authority and directive first granted last March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, made a joint announcement Tuesday afternoon that lawmakers will pass legislation to repeal the governor’s temporary emergency powers. The legislation will allow executive actions to remain that are critical in preserving public health, legislative leaders said.
Legislators are expected to vote by Friday to rescind the governor’s powers.
“A year into the pandemic, and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine, the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose – it is time for them to be repealed,” Heastie said in a statement. “These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”
The temporary emergency powers allowed Gov. Cuomo broader authority to issue executive orders. They were set to expire April 30.
“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now,” Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances. Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected.”
The repeal comes as increasing lawmakers and officials, including a growing number of Democrats, are calling for Gov. Cuomo to resign after a third woman accused him of unwanted sexual advances Monday night.
On Monday night, The New York Times reported 33-year-old Anna Ruch’s recount of an incident after meeting the governor at a Manhattan wedding in 2019. She alleges the governor held her face after they were introduced and asked if he could kiss her. Ruch said Cuomo had made her feel uncomfortable when he put his hand on her bare lower back.
Ruch’s account follows a Saturday report in The New York Times Bennett, said while she worked as Cuomo’s former executive assistant and health policy adviser at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s initial outbreak late last spring, the governor repeatedly asked her about her sex life, if she had ever had sex with older men and if she was monogamous in her relationships.
Late last week, Lindsey Boylan, former Empire State Development chief and Cuomo’s special adviser, released a detailed account accusing the governor of sexually harassing her multiple times.
Boylan, who is running for Manhattan borough president, alleged “degrading,” “uncomfortable” and “insidious” harassment while working for Cuomo, and accused him of a nonconsensual kiss in his Manhattan office, comments comparing her looks to those of another woman he was rumored to have dated and unwanted touching of her lower back, arms and legs.
Six Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport and Assemblymembers Emily Gallagher, Phara Souffrant Forrest, Zohran Mamdani, and Marcela Mitaynes called on the governor to resign Tuesday and for the Legislature to begin impeachment proceedings.
“The accounts of sexual harassment from the women who have courageously come forward confirm what many in Albany have known for years: that Gov. Cuomo uses his power to belittle, bully and harass his employees and colleagues,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “The accounts add to recent revelations of gross misconduct. It is time for the Legislature to demand accountability.
“Impeachment proceedings are the appropriate avenue for us to pursue as legislators to hold the Governor accountable for his many abuses of power and remove him from office.”
The state Working Families Party released a statement Tuesday pushing the governor to resign immediately. Cuomo ran on the party line, which typically endorses progressive candidates, in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
The state young Democrats released a statement citing a statistic that 75% of workplace harassment incidents go unreported, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“We believe the survivors and trust that the AG’s investigation will substantiate the claims that have been made,” according to the Young Democrats. “Because of this, and in light of this demonstrated pattern of behavior, we call on the governor to resign immediately. These particular incidents reiterate the need to reform the structures and systems through which the Legislature and executive address issues of sexual harassment and assault.
“...To all survivors of sexual harassment or assault in any instance: We hear you and support you wherever you are, as this is not limited to the workplace or legislative halls.”
Some Democrats immediately came forward calling for Cuomo to step down.
Others are urging patience and to allow for due process as James begins the search to appoint an independent law firm to conduct a review.
New York State Democratic Party Chairman Jay S. Jacobs, a friend of the governor’s, said Tuesday the calls were premature and unfair until the investigation is completed and conclusions are made public.
“As my statement on Sunday noted, the allegations against Gov. Cuomo are serious, disturbing and require a full, independent investigation,” Jacobs said.
“Now that independent investigation, called for almost unanimously by Democratic leaders across the state, has been referred to the Attorney General and is being commenced, it is both premature and unfair for anyone to opine on the outcome until that investigation is completed and the results reported.”
Jacobs also chided Republicans for hypocritically sitting in silence when more than two dozen women accused President Trump of sexual harassment and other similar allegations.
“While they may have just now discovered their moral compass, Republican leaders have absolutely no standing whatsoever to share their opinion on the current matter,” Jacobs said. “I urge all Democrats to unite in our determination to allow the attorney general’s investigation to do the work we have called for, and then to do what is right, whatever the outcome. In the meantime, our state has a budget to complete, a pandemic to fight and the people’s work must continue.”
Michael Whyland, communications director to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, blasted Republicans in the Assembly minority in a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying they hindered lawmakers and are hypocritical in their calls for Cuomo’s, but not former President Donald Trump’s, resignation.
“Instead of helping to move our state forward, Assembly Republicans are working overtime to stall efforts to help our communities by playing politics during a time when New Yorkers can least afford it,” Whyland said. “Let’s remember, these are the same do-nothing politicians who just a few weeks ago sat idly by while Donald Trump worked to undermine our democracy and destroy our institutions. They said nothing after the president incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that resulted in multiple deaths. They said nothing when the confederate flag was brought into our nation’s Capitol. Indeed, at least one of their members encouraged the protesters prior to the attack on our nation’s Capitol. Their political posturing now is pure hypocrisy.”
Assembly Democrats must focus on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s hurting economy, Whyland said.
“New Yorkers want us to get to work to develop solutions that help them. That is what Assembly Democrats will always focus on,” he added. “Our Majority members understand the seriousness of the issues that have arisen and will address them responsibly. But Republicans who play these games will have to go back to their districts and explain to their constituents why they are more interested in trying to score meaningless political points than helping New Yorkers recover. In the meantime, our members are committed to getting the real work done.”
Representatives from Cuomo’s office did not return requests for comment Tuesday.
Twin County representatives were split on the call for the governor’s resignation.
“It is highly disturbing that we continue to see examples of Gov. Cuomo’s disrespectful and troubling behavior towards women,” said Assemblymember Didi Barrett, D-106. “So let me reaffirm my strong belief that there is no place for sexual harassment or bullying in any social setting or any workplace — most particularly in government where we should be leading by example.”
Barrett called for the governor to refer the investigation to James with subpoena powers.
“I have full confidence that she will do so thoroughly and professionally,” Barrett said. “Everyone is entitled to the opportunity to tell their truths and that is what an investigation will do. Now, the legislature should refocus on the important work of the 2021 budget and allow Attorney General James to do her job.”
Freshman Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-46, said Tuesday the allegations against Cuomo are deeply disturbing.
“We have an obligation to make sure that anyone who alleges mistreatment in the workplace is taken seriously and that proper inquiries be conducted,” Hinchey said. “Nothing less than an independent and immediate investigation is acceptable. I am glad that New York Attorney General Tish James now has the power to begin this investigation, and I know that her office will work expeditiously to get New Yorkers the answers we deserve.
“I am also confident that the Senate Majority will be introducing comprehensive legislation this week to address the governor’s executive powers and provide more legislative oversight on his executive actions going forward.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, repeated his call for the governor to step down in wake of the recent allegations.
“The governor before showed a willingness to hold up the work of the people for the sake of protecting his own image, as we saw with his withholding of nursing home fatality data,” Tague said. “In the last week, we have held session for only three hours over the course of four days, including yesterday’s canceled session. It is clear the governor’s allegations are distracting members of the Majority from doing their jobs, and at this point, with what we know now, there should be no disagreement that the governor is unfit to lead. The governor should resign immediately, so we can get to work on what really matters to everyday New Yorkers during this pandemic and our state’s debt crisis—helping them get back on their feet.”
Assemblyman Jake Ashby, R,C,I – Castleton, is encouraged by the attorney general’s investigation, he said Tuesday.
“Although the current evidence seems clear and overwhelming, a thorough investigation is necessary when discussing issues of such severity,” Ashby said. “That being said — if the allegations facing Gov. Cuomo are in fact true, Gov. Cuomo owes it to our state to admit his wrongdoings and take the proper action in resigning.”
Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-43, also called for a thorough nonpartisan investigation into the claims against the governor.
“I believe that everyone is entitled to due process, even Gov. Cuomo, who has not extended the same consideration to others,” Jordan said. “The allegations made against Gov. Cuomo are serious, substantial, and credible — and his accusers should be heard. Between these latest disturbing sexual harassment allegations, to the Federal Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation into Gov. Cuomo’s deadly and disastrous mandate that led to the deaths of 15,000 senior citizens in nursing homes and his attempted coverup, efforts to rescind the governor’s expanded emergency powers, the state budget that’s due April 1, and our economy, which has been devastated by the closures he ordered, it’s unclear how, or if, Cuomo can remain governor.
“Many New Yorkers — myself included — believe that with all of these investigations and growing scandals Gov. Cuomo has lost the public’s trust and, more importantly, the moral authority to effectively lead. As more allegations come to light, we very well may be headed toward Cuomo’s resignation so New York State may move forward and we can put this difficult, painful chapter behind us.”