ALBANY – The Republican Conference of the National Assembly presents a resolution to begin the process of impeaching Governor Andrew Cuomo, a three-term Democrat.
The move, which has no chance of being approved given the strong Democratic majorities in both houses of New York’s legislature, is a sign that Cuomo’s critics continue to feel emboldened as the governor remains involved in the controversy over its decisions regarding the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes.
“The Cuomo administration’s cover-up of retirement homes is one of the most alarming scandals we have seen in state government,” Minority Leader Will Barclay said in a statement. “Intentionally withholding critical information from the public, underreporting the death toll by 50% and the recent revelation that they hid the truth to avoid an investigation by the Federal Ministry of Justice are among the factors raising the serious possibility of criminality. It is the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly to undertake a comprehensive bipartisan review of the policies, decisions and actions of the Cuomo administration in this matter and to make a decision on what to do to hold the governor accountable.
One of the most ironic rules in Albany is that the Assembly does not adopt important measures sponsored by the minority party. It has been many years since a Republican sponsored a new law that does more than rename a few blocks of a national highway in their district after a veteran. Even if the idea of impeachment gains traction, it is virtually guaranteed that Democrats will be responsible for deciding how this plays out.
A handful of longtime Cuomo critics in the Democratic Party have said impeachment could possibly be on the table, but the party leadership has yet to seriously consider the possibility.
“It’s hypocritical,” said Democratic State President Jay Jacobs. “Here you have a reporting inaccuracy – which, no matter how you look at it, is not criminal – and Republicans choose to politicize the governor’s handling of the pandemic and an extremely difficult crisis as they were silent as a Republican president stoked an insurrection in the nation’s Capitol. They were then silent on the indictment, but for an inaccuracy in the reports, they run with their hair on fire. It defies credulity.
The Republican proposal would create a “Temporary Joint Legislative Committee on Impeachment and Investigation of the State’s Response to COVID-19 in Nursing Homes.”
This committee would be composed of two people appointed by each of the four conferences of the Legislative Assembly. He would have subpoena power and, within two months, would report on “any illegal activity or intentional and corrupt fault” that he discovers.
Impeachments in Albany require a majority vote in the Assembly, where Democrats have 107 members and Republicans have 43. An impeached governor would then be tried by a body made up of the State Senate (which has 43 Democrats and 20 Republicans) and the seven judges of the Court of Appeals (all of whom were appointed by Cuomo). A two-thirds vote would be needed to condemn.
No governor has been impeached since William Sulzer, a Democrat, in 1913. Sulzer committed wrongdoing before taking office, such as buying shares with his campaign funds, but was overthrown largely because ‘he committed the most serious mischief of all – daring to stand up to Tammany Hall and her boss, Charles F. Murphy. Sulzer ran for governor in 1912 with support from Tammany.
Republicans cited Sulzer’s highly politicized impeachment as an example of a well-done impeachment, saying it “had ended abuse and executive power.”