As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continued to use President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination as campaign fodder Tuesday, a rival said it’s the governor who failed to act on abortion rights when he had the chance.
And state Republicans called the governor’s actions a political stunt triggered by Cynthia Nixon’s bid to defeat Cuomo in a Democratic primary.
The political volley underscores the increased focus on the abortion issue by Democratic candidates not only in New York’s gubernatorial campaign but also the struggle for control of the politically split Senate, an analyst said.
Cuomo, a day after Trump nominated conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court, said the president now has positioned the Supreme Court to overturn abortion rights in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. At rallies surrounded by supporters, Cuomo called on the State Senate to return to Albany to enact abortion protections by codifying Roe v. Wade into state law.
“We need a New York state law that codifies Roe v. Wade … and we need that to pass before the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade,” Cuomo said before an audience of Planned Parenthood supporters and union members at the New Hyde Park office of Teamsters Local 282.
But the Republican-led Senate has no intention of returning to the State Capitol since the regular legislative session ended in June, and Cuomo stopped short of using the power at his disposal to actually order them to return.
A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said Cuomo “refuses to engage” in a broader discussion of women’s health issues.
"Women's health issues deserve more than political stunts with stolen one-liners from 'The Apprentice,'" said GOP spokeswoman Candice Giove. “He's so frightened of Cynthia Nixon that he's drinking the political Kool-Aid served by radicals and socialists who now control the Democratic Party."
Giove said Republicans had “valid concerns” about Cuomo’s abortion proposal “including non-doctors performing abortions.”
For her part, Nixon said Cuomo is trying to sidestep the fact that he had the opportunity to enact abortion legislation when Democrats had a numerical majority in the State Senate. But instead, she said, Cuomo backed a power-sharing agreement between the GOP and a band of breakaway Democrats that left Republicans in charge and abortion rights bottled up.
“For years, Cuomo has had every opportunity to protect our reproductive rights, and time and again he made the choice to side with the IDC instead of New York’s women,” Nixon said, referring to the Independent Democratic Conference, which had partnered with Republicans from 2013 until last April, when, under heavy political pressure, it returned to the mainline Democrats.
Cuomo aide Rich Azzopardi countered: “The fact is until this April the Senate hasn’t had the votes to codify Roe v. Wade, in part because there has never been a 100 percent pro-choice Democratic conference until now. Anyone serious about protecting reproductive rights should join us and the Senate Democrats to urge the Republicans to put this bill on the floor now.”
In a state that solidly favors abortion rights, Democrats are trying to make abortion an issue in September primaries as well as the November general election – an effort that ramped up after Trump’s Supreme Court nomination.
“It is an important issue for rank-and-file Democrats and it’s an even more important issue for likely voters in a Democratic primary,” said Steve Greenberg, spokesman for the Siena College poll. Its April survey found that 78 percent of enrolled Democrats favored a state law codifying Roe v. Wade while just 11 percent opposed.
Greenberg said Cuomo “has used the bully pulpit” to “ talk about the issue at great length” over the last four years. But he added that “Nixon is right in that it hasn’t gotten done.”
On Monday, the governor said he wouldn’t issue an order calling a special session to compel the legislature to return to the State Capitol. He said such a declaration would “cost taxpayers money” by forcing lawmakers to return and that instead he was asking the Senate to return and “if they don’t come up and pass it, then the voters are going to know they are against it.”
The overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled state Assembly approved the abortion bill earlier this year.