Sens. Schumer, Gillibrand join growing calls for Gov. Cuomo to resign
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suffered major political defections Friday as New York's two senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and 15 of its Democratic congressional members called for his resignation.
Along with losing the support of Schumer and Gillibrand, Cuomo also lost the backing of one of his long-standing allies in New York politics. Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester) became the latest official to say Cuomo should step down amid an impeachment inquiry and other investigations centering on his handling of nursing homes and sexual harassment allegations.
"Confronting and overcoming the COVID crisis requires sure and steady leadership," Schumer and Gillibrand said in a rare joint statement. "We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct. Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign."
The announcement came hours after an embattled and defiant governor said he would not resign because the allegations weren't true. He also said politicians calling for him to quit are "reckless and dangerous."
"I did not do what is alleged," Cuomo said.
The governor's remarks came in a media conference call after an increasing number of his fellow Democrats — including key supporters — said he should resign.
Long Island’s five Democratic senators had been one of the legislative blocs most aligned with Cuomo as centrists on a range of legislative matters. But they, too, now say sexual harassment allegations leveled by six women against the governor are "beyond troubling." The state Assembly has launched an impeachment inquiry, just one of several ongoing probes of Cuomo.
The governor faces allegations of sexual harassment as well as a separate federal investigation of his administration’s reporting of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.
In a statement Friday, the five Long Island senators questioned whether Cuomo could still discharge the duties of his office under these circumstances.
"The New York State Constitution demands that if the governor is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office of Governor, the Lieutenant governor shall act as the Governor until the inability shall cease,’ " the group wrote. "We call on the Governor to step aside at least until such time that the Attorney General’s investigation is complete. We are confident that the Lieutenant Governor will ably serve the people of New York."
It was signed by Sens. John Brooks (D-Seaford), James Gaughran (D-Northport), Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown).
They haven’t been the only legislators suggesting Cuomo could step aside temporarily and allow Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul assume the duties of the office.
But a legal expert said that isn’t permissible under state law.
"There is no half-step for being governor. You either are or are not the governor," said Karl Sleight, a private attorney and former head of the state ethics commission.
The Long Island delegation statement was one of a number piling up Friday, one day after the Assembly said it has begun a process which could result in Cuomo’s impeachment:
- U.S. Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Yvette Clarke, Antonio Delgado, Adriano Espaillat, Brian Higgins, Mondaire Jones, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Grace Meng, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerry Nadler, Paul Tonko and Nydia Velazquez called for Cuomo’s resignation. Previously, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) had been the lone congressional Democrat who said the governor should step down.
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has sparred frequently with Cuomo, said: "The governor must resign. He can no longer do the job."
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) didn't call for Cuomo's resignation and said the governor deserved due process. But he raised questions about the governor being able to carry out his duties amid the investigations.
"I believe the governor must seriously consider whether he can effectively continue to govern in the midst of these unfolding allegations," Suozzi said. "If he cannot effectively govern with all of the controversy surrounding him, he must put the interests of all New Yorkers first and he should resign."
The governor stood defiant against his own party members.
"Let the review proceed. I am not going to resign," Cuomo said. "Politicians who don’t know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and an opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous," adding they were bowing to "political expediency."
With a roughly $193 billion state budget due April 1 and a vaccine rollout underway, Cuomo brushed aside claims he could no longer lead during the investigations.
"In the meantime, we're going to negotiate a budget," the governor said. "In the meantime, I have to do millions of vaccines."
With Matthew Chayes