Albany pols should cancel break to address Cuomo cover-up, GOP leader says
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Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay urged the Legislature to cancel its winter break this week and hold a special session to address Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s coronavirus nursing home deaths “cover up” scandal — including stripping the governor of his emergency powers.
Barclay referenced The Post’s bombshell report of a private meeting between Democratic lawmakers and Team Cuomo last week in which secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa admitted that administration officials deliberately withheld data showing the extent of the coronavirus death toll of nursing home residents for months, citing a federal probe of the matter. The Post report was based on an audio recording of the exchange.
Barclay said lawmakers should convene immediately and pass a law to strip Cuomo of the COVID-19 emergency powers the Legislature granted the governor last year to address the pandemic.
That law expires April 30, but there is growing bipartisan support to end those powers within the next few weeks, source said. The law gives the governor the authority to issue emergency directives or orders during an emergency, including pausing existing laws.
“The circumstances surrounding the governor’s nursing home cover-up and revelations from his staff’s closed door meeting with Democratic legislators is unforeseen and unprecedented,” Barclay, from upstate Fulton, said in a statement.
“The Legislature was not originally scheduled to reconvene this week. But we need to face reality, this is hardly the appropriate time for a break.”
A Democratic legislative insider confirmed there is overwhelming support to curb Cuomo’s powers and predicted action would be taken in the next few weeks. But the source said it takes three days for a bill to age before passage and that there was no need to cancel the winter break.
Barclay said it “should not have taken a national scandal” to prod Democrats to act.
He also urged Democrats to sign a petition to issue subpoenas to compel Cuomo administration officials to testify at a legislative hearing and turn over information regarding nursing home deaths.
Barclay said the winter break for lawmakers is “inexcusable” because families of nursing home residents killed by COVID-19 haven’t gotten a week off from “the loss and suffering.”
More than 15,000 residents of nursing homes and other assisted living and long-term facilities have died from COVID-19.
It wasn’t until state Attorney General Letitia James issued a stinging report last month saying Cuomo’s Health Department low-balled nursing resident deaths by 50 percent that the administration started releasing more complete data. The administration had previously excluded COVID-19-infected nursing home residents who died after being transported to hospitals.
A state judge also ruled that Cuomo illegally withheld nursing home death data by stonewalling a request from the Empire Center for Public Policy. The judge ordered the administration to release the figures.
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