Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is joining her fellow New York Democrats in calling for an investigation into how Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration handled the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Ocasio-Cortez said, “Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and the Secretary to the Governor’s remarks warrant a full investigation.”
In recent days, Cuomo has been under fire following reports that his administration undercounted nursing home deaths from COVID-19. Criticism escalated after it was revealed that Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, told Democratic lawmakers the administration didn’t promptly revise the numbers out of concerns about a potential investigation by the Trump-led Department of Justice.
In light of the controversy, Democrats in the state legislature are discussing the possibility of stripping Cuomo of his emergency powers, which grant him unilateral control over the state’s response to the pandemic.
State Senator Gustavo Rivera told the New York Times that the legislature needs to act, “hopefully sooner than later.” “We need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There’s three of them,” added Rivera, the Democratic chairman of the health committee.
The scandal also prompted Republicans in the state assembly to announce their plan to form an impeachment commission to “gather facts and evidence surrounding Governor Cuomo’s handling and subsequent cover-up of the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes.”
In a statement published Thursday, the Assembly Republican Conference said its resolution will set a 60 day deadline for the committee to carry out its investigation and report back to the legislature.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay called the nursing home crisis “one of the most alarming scandals we’ve seen in state government.”
He added, “It is incumbent upon the legislature to undertake a comprehensive, bipartisan review of the Cuomo administration’s policies, decisions, and actions on this matter and render a decision on what steps must be taken to hold the governor accountable.”
Though Cuomo is facing bipartisan rebukes, it’s unclear how successful the impeachment effort might be. The process starts with a majority vote in the assembly, where Democrats have a significant majority.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has been embroiled in a back-and-forth with Assemblyman Ron Kim, who recently accused the governor of threatening him in a phone call after he publicly criticized the administration over its policy on nursing homes during the pandemic.
Kim went even further during an appearance on The View Friday. “Cuomo is an abuser,” he said. “He has abused his powers and abusers are cowards.”
During a COVID-19 briefing Friday afternoon, Cuomo proposed nursing home reforms in order to ensure preparedness for a potential future pandemic.
The governor stood by his claim that the administration only provided accurate information and implied that current controversies were a result of people lying or obfuscating in order to play politics, which only hurt the families of those who passed away due to the pandemic.
“I’m not going to allow people to lie to the people of New York without answering them. Because I’m not going to allow the grief to be aggravated,” Cuomo said.
He added, “I have a very thick skin. I don’t really care what people say about me. I get politics. I agreed to this nasty business because I believe I can do good things.”