Backlash: New York legislature strikes deal to strip Cuomo of emergency pandemic powers

Given the myth that Cuomo has cultivated about his COVID leadership, this is like Churchill being stripped of his war powers in 1942.

It’s going to make for an amazing chapter in the sequel to his “How I Saved America from the Coronavirus” book, no?

Serious question: Does this move happen if not for Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal? Lawmakers were discussing it a few weeks ago after the news broke about his nursing-home cover-up, but remember that both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by Democrats. It’s no easy thing to come after a governor from your own party, especially when his approval rating remains basically solid. The sex scandal may have been the final nudge legislators needed to pull the trap door on him, believing that if he isn’t unpopular already among New York’s voters, he will be soon.

From now on, King Andrew answers to the people. In theory.

The last bit is the key, if I’m understanding the new scheme correctly. From now on, new pandemic controls will be handed down locally, not from on high in Albany. Cuomo’s existing orders do remain in effect temporarily, and he can modify them as necessary — but only with input from the legislature:

The legislation will allow current public health directives to stay in place for 30 days following the passing of the legislation. These directives deal with controlling the spread of COVID-19, vaccination efforts and wearing a face covering. The directives can still be extended or modified but certain steps need to take place in order to do so.

The governor will have to notify relevant Senate and Assembly committee chairs as well as the temporary president of the Senate and the speaker of the Assembly with the need for the extension or modification, and the threat to public health and safety, and provide an opportunity to comment. Orders that do not pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be adjusted.

If a local government is directly impacted by an executive order, the leadership there will have an opportunity to comment on any extension or modification…

The legislation will also allow lawmakers to repeal a declared State of Emergency by joint resolution and will keep disease outbreaks in the definition of disaster situation that can be subject to a state of emergency.

I’m unclear on what happens if Cuomo wants to modify an existing order and the legislature is resistant. Presumably if there’s enough opposition they can just pass a resolution rescinding that order, but that may require two-thirds to override a Cuomo veto. And legislators are typically gutless figures. Some may figure that it’s better to let Cuomo have his way as the pandemic eases, knowing that he’ll take the blame from the public if his measures continue to be seen as overly restrictive. Why should the legislature move to overrule him and risk being held responsible by voters for whatever bad outcome might result from their preferred policy?

Of course, this assumes Cuomo will be in office long enough to oversee the end of the pandemic. Will he?

The New York Post remembered today that not long ago, when certain state legislators were accused of sexual misconduct, Cuomo himself was quick to call for them to resign rather than insist upon an investigation to determine their guilt. I wonder how many state lawmakers who’ll end up voting to strip him of his COVID powers remember those episodes and resent the double standard.

Democrats have two problems in demanding that Cuomo resign, though. One is that what he’s been accused of isn’t that different from what Joe “Busy Hands” Biden has been accused of. Cuomo’s intent sounded more lascivious than Biden’s did in the incidents recounted by his accusers, but then Cuomo hasn’t been accused of anything as bad as what Tara Reade accused Biden of. (Then again, no other woman has accused Biden of anything similar.) If you try to push Cuomo out, you open yourself to the question of “Why not Biden?” The other problem — and decide for yourself how disingenuous this is or isn’t — is liberals feeling they’ve disarmed unilaterally by coming after misbehaving men on their side when Republicans won’t lift a finger to pressure Trump on the claims of sexual misconduct against him. It’s pathetic beyond words to reduce one’s willingness to police for sexual malfeasance to a game of “tu quoque” but that may be where we’re at culturally.

I’ll leave you with this depressing sample of comments from the Times’s story on Cuomo’s latest accuser last night.